MS Risk Blog

More Attacks in Yemen, Houthis Gain Greater Control of State Institutions

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18 December- In the third attack in two days, suicide bombers detonated two car bombs in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida. Nine people, including the two attackers were killed, and at least 15 others were wounded. Three additional suspected suicide bombers were killed by local security forces before they were able to detonate their explosives. On Twitter, Yemen’s al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Sharia has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
A day earlier, two suicide car bombers rammed their vehicles into a Shiite rebels’ checkpoint and a house south of Sana’a as a school bus was travelling nearby. The detonation killed 31 people, including at least 20 primary school students, all under the age of 12. Witnesses reported that the car appeared to be loaded with potatoes which concealed the explosives hidden underneath. The car bomber arrived at a checkpoint manned by rebels and blew up the vehicle as a student bus was passing, filled with female primary school students. Immediately after the attack, rebel troops brought four pickup trucks to transport the bodies, while ambulances assisted the wounded. Witnesses state that body parts were strewn throughout the street, along with open bags of potatoes. The Houthis called the attack “the ugliest crime against childhood.” Later, a second car bomber targeted the home of a Shiite rebel leader Abdullah Idris. The attack marked the second time Idris’ residence had been targeted.

Houthis Gain Political Control

Yemen has been tumultuous since September, when rebel Shiite Houthi fighters captured Sana’a and forced Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa and his government to step down. The Houthis have become the de facto power base in Yemen, expanding control into areas south and west of Sana’a. The rebels are fighting two battles; on one front, they have engaged in several clashes with al Qaeda, driving them out of several strongholds. On the other front, they are battling the current Yemeni government, who they accuse of rampant embezzlement and corruption. On Tuesday, the power struggle between the Houthis and the Yemeni government came to a head as the rebels gained an increasing grip on state-run institutions.
On 16 December, Houthi rebels surrounded the Ministry of Defence, preventing the Minister of Defence from accessing his office, and Houthi fighters broke into the offices of al-Thawra newspaper to demand the dismissal of the Editor-in-Chief, Faisal Markam. The group claimed to be following orders from Houthi leader, Abdelmalek al-Huthi, who said to “to end corruption in all state institutions”. A day later, Houthi fighters seized control of Yemen’s Central Bank and the Department of Civil Status and Civil Registration. Militants sealed off the Central Bank, preventing employees from entering or leaving the premises. The Houthis believe Hadi is illegally using government funds to finance media outlets affiliated with his son. Houthis also seized control of the headquarters of SAFER, Yemen’s largest state-run oil and gas company.
On Thursday, Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah’s cabinet won a parliamentary vote of confidence. Bahah’s government, composed of technocrats and politicians from a range of parties, has the broad support of the Houthis but relations are not easy. Bahah suggested on Wednesday his government could resign after the rebels raided state institutions and sacked public officials. Strengthened by the vote, the government must now move forward gingerly, striking a balance between working with the Shiite Houthi rebels while avoiding sectarian strife with the Sunni majority. The Bahah government must also develop a strategy to deal with security threats from al-Qaeda militants and their affiliated tribal groups, as well as southern separatist movements.

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