Yemen Shi’ite rebels say leader in good health

DUBAI - Yemen’s Shi’ite rebels said on Friday their leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, had not been seriously wounded, and posted a video on their website showing him in good health

By (Reuters)

Published: Sun 24 Jan 2010, 1:16 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 7:42 AM

On Tuesday a Yemeni official said Houthi had been seriously wounded about a month ago and had entrusted a relative with leading the northern rebellion in his stead.

In a statement accompanying the video clip, the rebels said they had issued it “at the insistence of the majority of media outlets that have contacted us about the necessity to show Abdul-Malik al-Houthi in a video that confirms what we have said time and again: That he is safe and no harm has come to him.”

A government official said on Jan. 19 Houthi had sustained serious wounds and his leg had had to be amputated.

The video shows Houthi sitting on a chair and speaking into a microphone, with both legs intact and no visible wounds.

Claims he had been wounded were baseless, he said, adding the central government was merely trying to justify what he said was the killing of civilians.

Reuters could not immediately verify the date of the recording, but his comments came in answer to a question about government claims he had been wounded.

Shi’ite rebels from the Zaidi sect have been fighting government troops in Yemen’s mountainous north on and off since 2004, complaining of marginalisation.

The conflict intensified last summer and again in November when it drew in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter. When rebels seized some Saudi territory, Riyadh unleashed a major military operation against them that is still under way.

Yemen, where about 42 percent of the country’s 23 million people live on less than $2 a day, is also in the middle of a major crackdown on al Qaeda in several provinces at the same time as trying to contain separatist sentiment in the south.

Yemen’s growing instability has raised fears in the region and abroad that al Qaeda may exploit the chaos to step up operations in Yemen and use it as a base for attacks elsewhere.

The militant group’s Yemen-based wing claimed responsibility for a bomb attempt on an aircraft heading to the United States on Dec. 25. About 8,900 families have been made into refugees by the fighting in the province of Saada, the rebel stronghold, a government official was quoted as saying by the state news agency Saba on Thursday. The United Nations says the conflict has displaced about 175,000 people in northern Yemen, which is off-limits to journalists and even some international agencies.

Death tolls and casualty numbers are therefore difficult to verify independently.

However, a Saudi military official was quoted in a newspaper on Thursday as saying 113 Saudi soldiers had died in fighting against the Houthis.

After a meeting on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi agreed to step up work to support counterterrorism efforts in Yemen.

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