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Yemen: Growing concern over Houthi attacks - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Tribesmen loyal to the Shi'ite Houthi group attend a tribal gathering to show support to the group in Amran province north of the Yemeni capital Sanaa March 13, 2014. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Tribesmen loyal to the Shi’ite Houthi group attend a tribal gathering to show support for the group in Yemen’s Amran province on March 13, 2014. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—At least four Yemeni soldiers were killed and five others injured on Thursday after Houthi rebels attacked a military convoy in the Hamdan area west of Sana’a, the capital, tribal sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Thursday’s violence represents the latest incident in a series of violent clashes that have broken out between the Hamdan tribe and Shi’ite Houthi rebels who have been pushing to enter the elevated area that overlooks the capital.

According to local reports, Yemeni military troops were mobilized north and west of Sana’a as rumors circulated that the Houthis intended to storm the capital after encircling it from several sides. Yemen also deployed troops to the northeastern part of the capital. The military mobilization comes after at least 40 people were killed in clashes between Houthis and Sunni Muslim tribesmen this week.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, a Hamdani tribal source said that the tribe was seeking to drive the Houthi rebels out of the area in order to protect key military bases in Sana’a.

Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi met with the local council of Amran, 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Sana’a, to discuss the role of the tribes in ensuring the security and stability of the capital and deterring Houthis from marching into Sana’a.

Eyewitnesses confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that military forces and people’s committees had deployed heavily in Amran in anticipation of a potential attack by the Houthis.

In previous comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Houthi spokesman Ali Al-Bakhiti denied reports that the movement was seeking to storm the city.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We defend ourselves when someone attacks us because the government is absent. Someone must fill the vacuum left by the government,” Bakhiti said, adding, “When there is a national unity government, including in Saada, we are ready to be as the rest of the political sides in Yemen.”