Potential Hot Spots: The Shia Rebellion in Yemen

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February 13, 2006: Yemen has a war going on with one of its Shia tribes. Known as the home of the bin Laden family, Yemen not only has a lot of "al Qaeda friendly" people, it also has a religious conflict between radical Shia tribes, and pro-al Qaeda Sunni Yemenis. There is also an ongoing insurrection by followers of a Shia religious leader. 

 

On February 6th, soldiers and Shia tribesmen fought a battle near the Saudi border. The fighting was over control of a fortified compound, and left five soldiers and fifteen tribesmen dead. The Shia fighters are followers of Shia Islamic radical cleric Hussein al Houth. This battle was brought about because of an ambush, a week earlier, by tribesmen. Three soldiers were killed, and reinforcements were called in to track down and arrest the al Houthi supporters. A week before that, there was another clash, with the tribesmen being chased off.

 

The battles with the Shia tribesmen have been going on for for years, but has been more intense in the last two years. In 2005, nearly a thousand troops and tribesmen died, while in 2004 some 400 died. There is supposed to be a truce, but the al Houthi supporters broke it last March, as a new leader of the group sought to get concessions from the government (which is a coalition of Shia and Sunni groups).

 

The Shia of Yemen are not mainstream Shia, but a sect called the Zaydis. There are some five million of these Shia in Yemen, and they dominate the northern part of the country. In nearby Saudi Arabia, Shia are considered heretics. The bin Laden family are Sunnis from Yemen, and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda was brutal in its persecution of Shias.

 

 

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