SANA'A // Yemen's president vowed yesterday to continue his government's war against al Houthi rebels in the northern part of the country until the militants had been defeated. "The war will stop only after we have cracked down on this mercenary, treacherous and rebellious band," said Ali Abdullah Saleh in Balhaf on the Gulf of Aden, where he was inaugurating a new liquefied natural gas plant.
"There will be no reconciliation or truce - we will not stop the fight no matter how much money and martyrs it costs. "The [real] war just started three days ago and what has been going on is just a rehearsal for our army troops," the president said, addressing government officials and diplomats attending the inauguration ceremony. Fierce fighting continues between the army and al Houthi insurgents in the northern province of Sa'ada and the Harf Sufian district of neighbouring Arman province. The government launched a massive offensive on August 11 against the rebels who belong to the Zaidi sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam.
The government accuses the al Houthis, who have been fighting an intermittent insurgency for the past five years, of wanting to restore the Zaidi imamate overthrown in a 1962 revolution. The al Houthis deny that and say they are fighting to end religious, social and political marginalisation against them. "There is no way that the imamate ... can come back; the alternative is the blessed unity which was achieved in May 1990," Mr Saleh said. "We have cracked down all conspiracies - and we will crush the terrorism, sabotage and treasonous sedition."
Mr Saleh's speech comes as the Saudi army continues an offensive against al Houthis that it launched on Wednesday. The rebels said that Saudi warplanes carried out five raids on al Malhidh district and surrounding villages in Sa'ada. Thirty missiles were launched by the Saudi air force on the same district, the rebels said in an e-mailed statement to the media yesterday. In addition to the insurgency in the north, Mr Saleh's government is also facing a growing secessionist uprising in the south, the threat of an expanding al Qa'eda presence in the country and economic hardships, including the depletion of oil and water resources.