Republican Guard commander abducted, sparks tension between Khawlan and Sanhan
Mohammed Murad Al-Awbali, son of the abducted commander and sheikh of the village of Bait Al-Jaki in Sanhan, said his father went to Khawlan, 30 km from Sana'a, on an official mission.
The commander was ambushed by armed men from the Khawlan tribe. The men wore the military clothing of the Republican Guards and the First Armored Division. According to Mohammed Al-Awbali, the gunmen took his father to an unknown location.
Following the abduction, the Sana'a-Khawlan road witnessed a surge of resistance by the Sanhan tribe, located in the hometown of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and from where the kidnapped commander hails.
The tribesmen set up several checkpoints forbidding members of the Khawlan tribe to enter or leave Sana'a.
Saleh Abdullah, a resident of the Sahman village in Khawlan Al-Tial district, said he couldn’t go to Sana'a on Saturday because of checkpoints run by Sanhan tribesmen.
He said Sanhan detained approximately 24 locals from Khawlan in order to pressure the kidnappers to release Murad Al-Awbali.
Abdullah said Sanhan tribesmen focused in particular on locals from Qarwa village, to which the kidnappers belong.
For his part, Murad Al-Awbali's son said he had abducted more than 100 locals from Khawlan. He said they would be detained pending his father's release.
He said some sheikhs from the two tribes are mediating the release the abducted commander. Sheikhs Ali Maksa from Sanhan and Mohammed Naji Al-Ghadir, a leading figure in Khawlan, have so far unsuccessfully attempted to mediate, according to Mohammed Al-Awbali.
The abducted commander participated Republican Guard actions in Arhab. He fought against the armed, tribal opposition who sided with the popular uprising against former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. He also led the 2011 Republican Guard military campaign in Taiz against pro-democracy protesters demanding the former regime’s end.
The kidnappers issued a statement identifying themselves as a group of military personnel who sided with the revolution. They claimed that salaries had been cut, and despite repeated calls to the Defense Ministry to pay their salaries, there was no response.
They demanded the Republican Guard leadership apologize for false accusations and rumors broadcasted on the T.V. station Yemen Today and in its sister newspaper.
Former president Saleh’s son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh—who commands the Republican Guard—owns both outlets.