Local News Political Analysis

Military Aircraft Seen Over Radfan

Abdulmalik Alassar

National Yemen Exclusive

Yemeni Mig-21 (file photo)” military aircrafts and helicopters were seen overflying the Southern city of Radfan several times between Wednesday and Friday last week, eyewitnesses told the National Yemen.

They also stated that Radfan, along with the four other Lahj directorates characterized by Southern movement-related violence – al-Habilayn, Halimayn, Habeel Jabar, and al-Malah –  has been experiencing severe tensions during the last few months, which have increased last week due to the recent military build-up.

Local residents say they expect military strikes on locations that allegedly host those bearing arms against the state, but that army forces face substantial difficulties in reaching and pacifying these areas.

Official statements have described the individuals pursued for arrest in the area as “those who have made citizens and army forces a target for assassination and murder.”

A local source in al-Malah directorate, Lahj governorate, pointed out that army forces have tightened their control on the southern movement in the area, which had been carrying out acts of “sabotage and looting of public and private property, and then flee to the highlands and the surrounding mountains adjacent to the main road for more than two years now.”

On Thursday morning, the southern movement held a peaceful protest, which is now a weekly event, and named it “the day of the detainee.”

Southern separation flags and pictures of the separatist leaders such as Ali Salem al-Beidh and Hassan Ba’um were raised, as well as pictures of activists who had been killed since the movement undertook a campaign of rebellion and civil disobedience against the government and the regime.

Sources added to the NY that participants of the protest led by Naser al-Khabji and other southern leaders chanted slogans and songs calling for separation.

Sources also pointed that the protest passed through the streets of al-Habilayn town and reached the “martyrs’ podium,” which is the venue of their events every Thursday. Speakers demanded secession and recited poems and speeches, while promising more peaceful protests.

Relatedly, a southern leader was injured last Wednesday in an exchange of fire with soldiers manning a checkpoint in the area located between the al-Habilayn and al-Malah directorates, after which violent clashes erupted between southern militants and military units stationed in the area and lasted for more than two hours.

The four restive directorates and Radfan are experiencing a state of unprecedented security chaos and an increase of violent acts after clashes between the army and southern leader Abbas Tambah two weeks ago left the latter dead, along with six of his comrades.

In retaliation, solders and army officers were kidnapped by gunmen led by southern militant Taher Tammah before tribal mediation succeeded in releasing them.

A meeting was held last Tuesday among sheikhs from the four directorates and Radfan, representing different political parties, in which they declared their refusal to develop new agreements with the army, but affirmed their commitment to previous understandings signed earlier with a presidential committee.

The meeting adopted several security resolutions, such as developing a mechanism to implement previous agreements on the security imbalances, as well as forming a coordination committee with the security services to ensure and maintain stability in the area.

This meeting came a day after Lahj deputy governor Radfan Abdullah Nasser called all citizens to stand with the government “in solidifying security, imposing government authority, and eliminating security disturbances in the area,” while he reserved the military’s right to hunt down and strike “subversive elements.”

The governor also resolved to confront the current escalation of “violence, murder, and highway robbery” through the military build-up witnessed by Radfan province, and to discuss ways to defuse the tension and spare the region from sliding into violence and chaos.

The official statement issued after the meeting also confirmed the government’s rejection of all acts and practices “beyond the law and order, including acts of banditry, killings and kidnappings.”