Shia rebels rally in Sanaa after leader defies UN

SHAFAQNA – Tens of thousands of Shiite rebel activists demonstrated in the Yemeni capital Monday heeding a call by their leader to press their campaign to oust the government in defiance of the UN. The show of strength by the Zaidi Shiite rebels caused traffic jams on several major roads in Sanaa, an AFP correspondent reported. In a speech late Sunday, rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi called on supporters who have been manning armed protest camps in the capital for the past week to continue their campaign to topple the national unity government, from which the rebels are excluded. Huthi slammed a demand by the U.N. Security Council Friday for the camps to be dismantled and for the rebels to pull back from areas they have occupied in recent months. He accused the council, which threatened sanctions against groups blocking the political transition in impoverished Yemen, of “supporting corruption and backing policies that lead to further poverty.” The rebels have been campaigning since early August for the national unity government to be replaced and for unpopular austerity policies it has adopted, including a sharp rise in fuel prices, to be reversed. They are demanding a broader political partnership.

Houthi urged his supporters to continue their protests “until the end of this week, and we might start with new actions next week,” which could include civil disobedience. Analysts say the rebels are trying to establish themselves as the dominant political force in the northern highlands, where the Zaidi Shiites are the majority community. Yemen has been locked in a protracted transition since long-time strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced from power in February 2012 after a deadly 11-month uprising. The government’s plans for a six-region federation to address the grievances of the regions have been rejected by both the Shiite rebels and southern separatists.



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