Yemen's Ansarullah Shiite militia vowed Saturday to press ahead with an offensive it launched in September to consolidate its grip across Yemen, despite fierce resistance from Sunni tribes and Al-Qaeda.
The Arabian Peninsula country has been rocked by instability since the Shiite fighters, also known as Huthis, seized control of Sanaa in September.
They have since expanded their presence in central and western Yemen, but have met fierce resistance from powerful Sunni tribesmen backed by fighters from Al-Qaeda.
“The Yemeni people is determined to pursue its revolution… and combat corruption,” Ansarullah chief Abdulmalik al-Huthi said in a statement published by Yemeni media.
He said he will also push ahead with the offensive to “guarantee security” and “put an end to political tyranny” – repeating slogans used by the Huthis to justify launching their campaign in September.
On the streets of central Sanaa, meanwhile, hundreds of youths staged a rally demanding that the Huthi militiamen withdraw from the capital, an AFP correspondent said.
The demonstrators marched to the mayor’s office carrying banners that read: “No to armed groups” and “Yes to security and stability”.
On September 21, the Huthis signed a UN-brokered deal with the government under which they had pledged to lay down their arms and pull out of the city.
They have yet to respect the terms of the agreement.
In his statement, the Huthi leader also called on supporters to “organise better in order to prepare for any eventuality”, without elaborating.
He also warned of “strict measures” that could be adopted, but again did not provide any details on what these might be.
In another development, Ansarullah has told residents in areas it controls that Saturday will no longer be considered part of the weekend because it is “the rest day of the Jews”, a militia official said.
Yemen, like some other Arab countries, observes the weekend on Friday and Saturday.
The militia official said the new regulation has entered into force in the Huthi stronghold of Saada in the remote north, as well as in the neighbouring province of Amran.
In the south, meanwhile, two soldiers were killed on Saturday and four wounded in a roadside bomb explosion in Hadramawt province, a military source said.
The source blamed Al-Qaeda’s Yemen franchise for the blast which he said was detonated by remote control.