Mutinying infantry wreaks havoc in Yemeni city
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In Yemen, the smallest spark could tip the country into armed conflict. In the country’s southeast, already weakened by separatists and al Qaeda, the mutiny of an infantry group on Saturday caused a spiral of violence in the streets of Radah.
Screenshot from a video showing an army truck on fire.
In Yemen, the smallest spark could tip the country into armed conflict. In the country’s southeast, already weakened by separatists and al Qaeda, the mutiny of an infantry group on Saturday has caused a spiral of violence in the streets of Radah.
On Monday, the city of Radah, located 150 km away from the capital Sanaa, was the scene of violent conflicts between infantry soldiers from the republican guard and armed locals, resulting in five deaths, including two soldiers. This was allegedly the result of soldiers’ attempt to forcibly close the city’s stores. An army truck was set on fire after being hit by a rocket.
The governor of the city told FRANCE 24 that nothing could justify the soldiers’ provocative actions, accusing the infantrymen as the source of this violence. The Ministry of Defense has created a commission to investigate the incident.
“The soldiers wanted to pressure the authorities to pay them”
Hussein Al Dhafri is a journalist in Radah. He witnessed the conflict between the soldiers and local residents.
For the last year, the Yemeni authorities have been fighting against members of al Qaeda that have taken root in the region, about a dozen kilometers from the city of Radah. Several months ago, the authorities sent in infantry soldiers as backup to support other soldiers from the republican guard, who were already deployed in the region.
The soldiers have been annoyed about not receiving their pay at the beginning of April. To show authorities how angry they were, several soldiers went to Radah on April 6 and forced shopkeepers to close their stores, urging civil disobedience in order to pressure the authorities. The soldiers behaved brutally with the local residents, insulting shopkeepers and wreaking havoc about town by shooting in the air and burning tires.
The next day, on Sunday, they reappeared in the city, again forcing shopkeepers to keep their stores closed. Hundreds of exasperated residents went out to protest on Monday. They were armed with machine guns and rocket launchers [Editor’s note: Yemeni citizens are the most armed in the world after the United States. According to our Observers, rocket launchers are openly on sale in the country, and it is easy to procure one].
The mutinying infantrymen were not present on that day, but other members of the republican guard were on the scene. These soldiers, despite knowing the inhabitants better since they’ve been here for a while, sadly were not able to calm the population down. Residents were calling for armed reprisals against the infantrymen for the violence they inflicted. Clashes took place and shots were fired, causing deaths and injuries.
The situation remains unstable in the city: we can still hear gun battles from time to time, and there are barricades in the street, especially near the market. City leaders and local army representative are currently in meetings to bring peace back to the city.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Sarra Grira (@SarraGrira).