Yemen's Saleh killed in RPG, gun attack on his car, party confirms death

Yemeni former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. (Reuters)
Updated 04 December 2017
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Yemen's Saleh killed in RPG, gun attack on his car, party confirms death

SANAA/DUBAI: Officials in Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress party (GPC) confirmed to Reuters that the former Yemeni president and party leader has been killed outside Sanaa, in what sources in the Houthi group said was an RPG and gun attack.
The GPC officials said Saleh was killed south of the capital Sanaa along with the assistant secretary-general of the GPC, Yasser Al-Awadi.
Sources in the Houthi group said fighters stopped his armored vehicle with an RPG rocket and then shot him dead.
A Houthi video distributed on social media showed what appeared to be Saleh’s body, clad in grey clothes and being carried out on a red blanket. The side of his head bore a deep wound.
Unverified footage that circulated earlier on social media showed armed militiamen unfurling a blanket containing the corpse and shouting, “Praise God!” and “Hey Ali Affash!,” another last name for Saleh.
In a televised address Monday evening, Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi called on all citizens in all provinces of the country to rise up against the Houthi militias.
The radio station of the Houthi-run Yemeni Interior Ministry first reported Saleh’s death but his party quickly denied this to Reuters, saying he was still leading his forces in Sanaa.
Earlier on Monday, Houthi forces blew up Saleh’s house in Sanaa and came under aerial attack by Saudi-led coalition warplanes for a second day, residents said.
Saleh’s loyalists have lost ground on the sixth day of heavy urban warfare with the Houthis during which the death toll has jumped to at least 125 with 238 wounded, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
“We are supporting the main hospitals in Sanaa who urgently need war-wounded kits,” ICRC spokeswoman Iolanda Jaquemet said in Geneva. “We are also looking at donating dead body bags to hospitals which are actually asking for them and hope to donate fuel to the main hospitals because they depend on generators.”
The United Nations called for a humanitarian pause in Sanaa between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to allow civilians to leave their homes, aid workers to reach them, and the wounded to get medical care.
STREETS ARE “BATTLEGROUNDS“
Jamie McGoldrick, UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, said in a statement that the streets of Sanaa had become “battlegrounds” and that aid workers “remain in lockdown.”
McGoldrick warned the warring parties that any deliberate attacks on civilians and against civilian and medical infrastructure are “clear violations of international humanitarian law and may constitute war crimes.”
Sanaa residents reported intense fighting overnight and into the morning with families cowering in their homes as explosions rocked the city. Coalition air strikes hammered Houthi positions in an apparent bid to shore up Saleh’s forces, witnesses said.
The realignment of Saleh’s forces with the Saudis would mark a significant turn in a war that is part of a wider struggle between regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Yemen’s protracted bloodshed has compounded the woes of one of the Arab world’s poorest countries and left at least 10,000 dead as hunger and disease have spread.
At the United Nations, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the warring parties to stop all ground and air assaults. He also called for the resumption of all commercial imports into Yemen, saying millions of children, women and men were at risk of mass hunger, disease and death.
However, in a speech late on Sunday, Saleh formally annulled his alliance with the Houthis and pledged to step up his fight.
Saleh, who dominated Yemen’s heavily armed tribal society for 33 years before quitting in the aftermath of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, and the Shiite Muslim Houthis had made common cause against Hadi loyalists.
But they vied for supremacy over the territory they ran together, including Sanaa, which the Houthis seized in September 2014, and their feud burst into open combat on Wednesday.
Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam claimed significant gains in the battle for Sanaa on Monday.
“With the aid and approval of God, the security forces backed up by wide popular support were able last night to cleanse the areas in which the militias of treason and betrayal were deployed,” he said in a statement.
The Houthi movement’s TV channel Al-Masirah and witnesses said Houthi fighters had seized the downtown home of Saleh’s nephew Tareq, an army general.
Residents said the warring sides traded heavy automatic and artillery fire as the Houthis advanced in the central Political District, which is a redoubt of Saleh and his family.
“We lived through days of terror. Houthi tanks have been firing and the shells were falling on our neighborhood,” said Mohammed Al-MadHajji, who lives in the frontline district.
“The fighting has been so violent we feel we could die at any moment. We can’t get out of our homes.”
Houthi media and political sources also reported that the Houthis also advanced toward Saleh’s birthplace in a village outside Sanaa where he maintains a fortified palace.
 
 


In Iraq, bloody tribal custom now classed as ‘terrorism’

A member of an Iraqi clan enters a straw tent in the town of Mishkhab, south of Najaf on November 15, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 2 min 46 sec ago
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In Iraq, bloody tribal custom now classed as ‘terrorism’

  • In Iraq, a country of 39 million people, clan origin and family name can carry weight in securing a job, finding romance, and gathering political support

BAGHDAD: A bloody, age-old custom used by Iraq’s powerful tribes to mete out justice has come under fire, with authorities classifying it as a “terrorist act” punishable by death.
For centuries, Iraqi clans have used their own system to resolve disputes, with tribal dignitaries bringing together opposing sides to mediate in de facto “hearings.”
If one side failed to attend such a meeting, the rival clan would fire on the absentee’s home or that of fellow tribesmen, a practice known as the “degga ashairiya” or “tribal warning.”
But in an age when Iraq’s vast rural areas and built-up cities alike are flooded with weapons outside state control, the “degga” may be deadlier than ever.
A recent dispute between two young men in a teashop in the capital’s eastern district of Sadr City escalated to near-fatal proportions, leaving a 40-year-old policeman with a broken hip and severely damaged abdomen.
His cousin Abu Tayba said the policeman was “wounded in a stray bullet during a ‘degga’ on a nearby home.”
“Weeks after the incident, he’s still in the hospital, hovering between life and death,” Tayba told AFP.
Even in Baghdad, disputes often involve machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, the city’s military command warned a top Iraqi court recently.
That body, the country’s Superior Magistrate Council, issued a decision last week classifying “deggas” as “terrorist acts” — and therefore warranting the death penalty — because of their impact on public safety.
A few days later, it announced it would take legal action against three people accused of targeting a home in Al-Adhamiyah, north of Baghdad, with the deadly custom.

In Iraq, a country of 39 million people, clan origin and family name can carry weight in securing a job, finding romance, and gathering political support.
They can also interfere in the work of the state, as tribal structures in some areas can be more powerful than government institutions.
Last year, Iraq’s tribes and the ministries of interior and justice pledged to work closer together to impose the law, but “deggas” seem to have hindered such cooperation.
Raed Al-Fraiji, the head of a tribal council in the southern province of Basra, told AFP the warnings have become commonplace.
“This happens every day. Yesterday it happened twice. The day before, three times,” he said.
“Two months ago, a domestic dispute between a husband and wife turned into an armed attack on the husband’s home. The exchange of fire killed one person and wounded three.”
Fraiji said tribal influence and practices were growing because the state was seen as unreliable.
“For an Iraqi citizen, the law has become weak. Meanwhile, tribes impose themselves by force.”
“Iraq is like a jungle — so a citizen will turn to a tribe to find solutions to their problems.”
The country has been ravaged by years of conflict since the US-led invasion in 2003 that removed strongman Saddam Hussein and led to the rise of militias.
A decade later, the Islamic State jihadist group overran much of Iraq and was only ousted from its urban strongholds across the country late last year.

Years of instability have left many of Iraq’s communities flush with weapons and largely out of the state’s reach, contributing to a preference for tribal mediation methods.
“The government is responsible for the increase in tribal conflict and of ‘degga’ cases,” said Adnan Al-Khazaali, a tribal leader in Baghdad’s Sadr City.
“Most of the young men today are armed and even the security forces cannot stand in their way.”
Tribal leaders and government officials alike are clinging to the hope that the new ruling could change things.
“These incidents are continually happening, and are often causing casualties,” interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan told AFP.
“Court rulings and their implementation,” Maan said, could be the only way to secure peace.
Back in Basra, the head of the local human rights commission estimated around a dozen people were wounded or killed in “deggas” last year.
“These incidents threatens social peace,” said Mahdi Al-Tamimi.
“It’s sad and worrying, and cannot be eliminated without a solid and effective law.”
But Fraiji, known in Basra for his relatively progressive views, feared the court’s ruling would not be enough to take on Iraq’s powerful clans.
“The decision will only remain ink on paper if the security forces do not enforce it on the tribes,” he said.