Yemeni government sources formally announced on September 10 the end of the rebellion under Zaidi Shi’ite tribal chief Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi. This follows the killing of al-Houthi and his brother as the result of an attack on their hideout in the region of Sha’ab Salman in Sa’ada province near the Saudi border, 150 miles north of the capital Sana’a. Their deaths mark the termination of a three-month punitive campaign, which has killed up to 600 civilians, rebels and troops.
Since the outbreak of the rebellion on June 18, al-Houthi had directed his followers, the Shabab al-Mu’minoon (‘Believing Youth’), in a vigorous guerrilla campaign characterized above all by its anti-US sloganeering, and rejection of Washington’s policies in Iraq and the wider region. As a Yemeni local issue and — due to doctrinal antagonism — unconnected with al-Qaeda inspired groups in the country, the rebellion looked to the Lebanese Shi’ite Hizbullah for an operational model, and has been suspected of Iranian support. Its military muscle was trained and indoctrinated in unauthorized religious schools where, according to Sana’a, a policy was taught of armed resistance to central authority and a program for the restoration of the long-abolished monarchy.
While the government of Ali Abdullah Salih is counting on exploiting a significant boost to prestige, which may enable it to promote further the disarmament program in a country where weapons outnumber population three to one, the potential for further conflict remains. Al-Houthi’s scattered supporters vow to fight on. “The issue will not be ended by the death of Sheikh Al-Houthi” a source close to al-Houthi said, “Many will adopt the cause for the sake of which Al-Houthi was martyred… War will continue endlessly, and the authority will not find rest unless it answers their crucial and lawful demands” (Yemen Times, 13-15th September). Despite such comments, the likelihood of a reprise of the fighting soon on this scale is small. However, a three-month armed rebellion of up to 3,000 insurgents building its momentum on little more than vaguely defined antagonism to the U.S. (which is not an occupier of the country) should give some pause for thought.