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Tags: Yemen | politics | unrest | Huthis | Saudi

Yemen Shiite Militia Holds Military Drill near Saudi Border

Friday, 13 March 2015 12:33 PM EDT

The Shiite Huthi militia that has seized power in Yemen's capital held military exercises near the border of Sunni heavyweight Saudi Arabia, their spokesman said Friday.

Mohammed Abdulsalam also launched a verbal salvo against Riyadh, accusing it of interference.

"Thousands of soldiers belonging to army units based in northern Yemen participated Thursday afternoon in these maneuvers, the first of this magnitude," Abdulsalam told AFP in a telephone interview from Baghdad, which he is visiting.

AFP could not independently verify the size of the exercises.

Yemen is strategically located next to oil-rich Saudi Arabia and on a key shipping route from the Suez Canal to the Gulf.

Abdulsalam said heavy weapons including tanks and artillery, captured by the Huthis as they spread their control across parts of Yemen, were used in the manoeuvres that took place in Kitaf, a town in Huthis' northern stronghold of Saada province.

The drill aims to enhance capacity and "raise readiness" of the militia forces to prepare them to face "any incidents that might develop," he said, accusing Saudi Arabia of providing "Al-Qaeda and jihadists with money, arms and logistical support."

Yemen is home to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) which, along with local Sunni tribes, has battled Huthi attempts to expand further south.

"These maneuvers are a message of peace for all except those threatening Yemenis by supporting takfiri (Sunni radical) elements," he said.

Yemen's mostly Sunni Gulf neighbors, led by Saudi Arabia, are deeply suspicious of the Huthis, fearing they will take Yemen into the orbit of Shiite Iran.

The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states accused the Huthis of a coup when the militia seized the presidential palace and besieged the residence of Western- and Gulf-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi on Feb. 6.

Hadi was held under house arrest but later escaped and fled to Aden, declaring through an aide last week that the southern port city was now Yemen's capital.

Riyadh "has not yet realised that Yemen has changed and rejects hegemony," Abdulsalam said.

"Saudi Arabia must understand that the Yemeni people will defend their sovereignty and will not accept" foreign interference, said Abdulsalam, accompanied by a Huthi delegation.

They have visited "Tehran, Beirut, and a Gulf country," he said, refusing to identify the GCC member that has hosted the Huthis.

The Huthis fought six wars with the Yemeni government between 2004 and 2010 during the rule of former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh. And in 2009, Saudi Arabia attacked Huthi positions in northern Yemen.

A key US ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda, Yemen has descended into chaos since the 2012 ouster of Saleh, who has been accused of backing the Huthis.

The GCC has agreed to a proposal by Hadi that Saudi Arabia host talks aimed at pulling Yemen out of its crisis, but the Huthis have so far opposed dialogue outside of Yemen.


© AFP 2023

The Shiite Huthi militia that has seized power in Yemen's capital held military exercises near the border of Sunni heavyweight Saudi Arabia, their spokesman said Friday.
Yemen, politics, unrest, Huthis, Saudi
Friday, 13 March 2015 12:33 PM
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