Houthi militants find allies in eastern Yemen province

The people of Yemen’s oil-rich Ma’rib province are ready to defend the region against any outside interference, the province’s governor has told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Governor Sultan Al-Arada said the people of Ma’rib are “doing all they can” to ensure the province “stays away from all the disputes, and remains free of the presence of militias from any group whatsoever.”

“Ma’rib’s tribal makeup will not allow for the entry of any militias from outside the province,” he added, in reference to the Shi’ite Houthi movement, currently in control of the country’s capital, Sana’a.

Arada confirmed that Ma’rib has established a “security and military presence to guard oil and gas installations, in cooperation with honorable citizens.”

Ma’rib is the country’s main oil and gas hub, and provides Yemen—the poorest country in the Arabian peninsula—with the bulk of its electricity and a sizable portion of its income.

There have been reports of a Houthi presence on the outskirts of the province since the group’s takeover of Sana’a in September with the Shi’ite militia continuing to seek to expand its control in northern and central areas of the country.

In the eastern Al-Hudaydah province, new governor Hassan Ahmed Al-Haig announced recently that armed members of the Houthi movement will be incorporated into the province’s security apparatus in 2015.

Haig, who was recently appointed to the post at after the Houthis called for the removal of his predecessor, Sakhr Al-Wagih, has been accused by some of carrying out the group’s demands in the province.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, an Al-Hudaydah citizen accused Haig of being “in league” with the Houthis.

“He does whatever they [the Houthis] ask of him, something which the former governor Sakhr Al-Wagih refused to do. How can armed militias take over the security of an entire province when all they know is how to use their weapons? They don’t know the [area]. We cannot accept this,” the Hudaydah citizen said.

“The Houthis becoming involved with Yemen’s military and security apparatus will have long-term political consequences. Their true intentions are clear, particularly after they seized important state ministries and institutes,” he aded.

Following months-long mass sit-ins and protests by thousands of their followers in Sana’a, the Houthis took control of the capital by storming government buildings and military installations amid a noticeable absence of security.

The group has since signed a Peace and National Partnership agreement with President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, which saw the appointment of a new government with the group having a say in the cabinet’s final makeup. However, many Yemeni officials have warned that the group’s continuing advance across parts of the country contravenes the UN-brokered peace agreement.

Al Bawaba News

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