Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Yemen squeezes Islamist persecutors of Jews

No sign yet that the 45 Jews sheltering in a hotel in Yemen - after receiving threats from an Islamist armed group called the Youthful Believers - will be returning home soon. But as the BBC reports, the Yemen government is stepping up pressure on the Young Believers to disarm:


President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen has warned militant Islamists to disarm, during a week of clashes between a Shia militant group and the armed forces that left at least 42 soldiers dead.Speaking in the capital, Sanaa, President Saleh said: "There is a special force ready to uproot them if they do not disband and put down their weapons as soon as possible. This operation would not take long. You have been forewarned".

Yemeni officials say 81 soldiers were injured during a wave of assaults, beginning in late January in the northern province of Saada. An unconfirmed number of rebels have also died in the fighting. The latest outbreak of violence has given rise to fears that a recent tentative truce between the government and the rebels could unravel, sparking a renewed uprising among Yemen?s Zaydi Shia minority.

The sporadic three-year insurgency has already claimed hundreds of lives. The rebels belong to a banned organisation called the Youthful Believers, representing a complex mix of political and sectarian grievances in the Zaidi Shia heartland between the capital, Sanaa, and the border with Saudi Arabia.

Tension in this mountainous tribal region was already running high after 45 Jews were forced from their homes two weeks ago by masked gunmen.

The Jews have taken refuge in a hotel in the provincial capital, Saada city, under the protection of a local sheikh.

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