Political Analysis

Army Deploys to Radfan to Face Southern Militants

Al-Bowaibin region in Al-Malah, Lahj governorate has witnessed fierce battles between the security forces and armed elements of the southern movement. Light and heavy weapons were employed, such as heavy machine guns and mortars, which government forces used to bombard the militants.

The militants managed to seize the military base of the general security in the same region, in addition to killing five soldiers and injuring of eight others. It was reported that after the general security office was occupied, a large amount military-grade weapons and ammunition were confiscated.

Eye-witnesses said to the National Yemen newspaper that MiG-29 military aircrafts still roam the skies often, in preparation to strike positions and targets where armed elements of the southern movement are believed to be hiding.

Informed sources said that the intensifying over-flights came after arrival of intelligence that there are elements of the al-Qaeda organization that joined the ranks of the armed southern movement elements in Radfan and that they possess advanced weapons.

The sources said that the residents of villages neighboring the conflict region were asked to evacuate the region in preparation for a possible military strike, especially after brigade 119 stationed there allegedly asked for military reinforcements.

The brigade was furnished with armored vehicles, missiles, and other heavy weapons in preparation for the anticipated battle.

Eye-witnesses and military sources in the al-Anad military base affirmed that the military reinforcements dispatched by the Ministry of Defense includes infantry battalions from the Republican Guard brigade in Dhamar province. These military reinforcements followed other previous reinforcements sent by the army forces after fighting between the two sides erupted two weeks ago and continued until yesterday evening.

The violence has resulted in a number of deaths and injuries on both sides.  Military sources said that the purpose of the campaign is to subdue the region of Radfan and its four surrounding directorates so that the government can regain authority over the area, which the southern movement’s had previously controlled totally.

The same sources noted that the al-Dhale’, al-Habilain, and Aden roads have been blocked and oil deliveries were prevented from reaching the region and also telephone telecommunication lines were cut, supposedly so that army units can approach rebel hideouts without advance warning.

Radfan representatives have called for the soldiers of the 119 Brigade to vacate the area, calling their demand a “Message of Peace.” Local councils in the area had resolved in 2008 to stop the establishment of new military posts, and the move was formalized by a decision made by the presidential committee in 2009.

The message stated that “all the sheikhs of Radfan, local councils, merchants and social figures have unanimously agreed to the refusal of the deployment of the military forces outside their permanent camps – a position which we have maintained since 2007.”

The message addressed the commander and soldiers of 119 Infantry Brigade, saying “your presence is a breach of all relevant agreements, and a provocation of our feelings, which is unacceptable.”

Military sources mentioned that the mountains to the east of al-Bowaibin region in al-Malah directorate in Yafe’, Lahj governorate, have been regained after they had been combed by army elements. According to locals, a nervous calm prevails after the army forces have cleared the area of rebels.

The residents there have demanded that the state’s sovereignty be imposed in their regions, which are experiencing security chaos.  Armed separatists, rumored to have the support of elements belonging to the al-Qaeda organization, are killing their local opponents, local officials have claimed.

The southern movement leader Hasan Ba Oum has arrived in Radfan region after he was released by the government and was received amid disagreements among the southern movement.

He called on them to unify their ranks and forget old differences and divisions among its leaderships, and meetings with local activists were reportedly convened to advance that vision.

Last Thursday, thousands of the people in Lahj governoate in the four directorates of Radfan in addition to the directorates of Al-Sabiha and parts of the two directorates of Toban went out in a large demonstration on the 5th anniversary of the drive for “Southern Tolerance Reconciliation” in 2006.

Attendees raised placards in both Arabic and English which expressed the “tolerance” and “reconciliation.” They stressed in a number of statements their desire to end of differences and clashes of the past within the moveent.

The demonstrators repeated slogans in support the southern movement, which demand the return of a Southern State by peaceful means. They also raised pictures of the former vice-president of the unified state, Ali Salem al-Beidh and the leader of the southern movement, Hasan Ba Oum and a number of those who were killed in peaceful demonstrations during the last five years.

Those present hailed mainly from Radfan, al-Dalea, Yafe and Al-Sabiha in Lahj.  The condemned the supposed siege carried out by the Yemeni army forces on Radfan, while claiming that telecommunications have been cut for five days in al-Dalea, as part of an “economic siege” on the towns of Radfan, Yafe’ and al-Dalea.