Yemen Shiite leader dismisses U.N. sanctions threat

Abdel-Malek al-Houthi delivered his speech after at least 30 people were killed in clashes between his forces and al-Qaeda militants.

Abdel-Malek al-Houthi delivered his speech after at least 30 people were killed in clashes between his forces and al-Qaeda militants.

The leader of Yemen’s powerful Shiite Houthi rebels, who control the capital and are currently battling al-Qaida militants, on Tuesday brushed off the threat of U.N. Security Council sanctions, saying “we are not afraid.”

Abdel-Malek al-Houthi delivered his speech after at least 30 people were killed in clashes between his forces and al-Qaeda militants — with each side backed by rival tribes — in the central town of Radda.

The Security Council last month expressed deep concern at developments in Yemen, urged the new government to expedite reforms especially in the army and security forces, and said it is prepared to impose sanctions on “spoilers” threatening the country’s peace, security and stability.

Houthi delivered the speech in honor of Ashoura, a major Shiite holiday commemorating the 7th century death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

He warned that his forces are raising their “combat readiness” and accused embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi of failing to combat al-Qaida’s powerful Yemeni affiliate and other Sunni Islamic extremists.

Al-Houthi’s speech signaled an escalation against the country’s leadership and fed fears among many Yemenis that the rebels are looking to expand their already considerable territorial gains.

The Shiite rebels have been battling al-Qaida militants in the town of Radda, where the two sides traded heavy artillery fire that lasted until early Tuesday, killing several civilians and damaging houses and cars, according to security officials, who said the indiscriminate shelling has forced dozens of families to flee the town. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity according to military regulations.

Some 250 people were killed late last month in fighting between the Houthis, who control large parts of Radda, and the Qifa tribe. The Houthis swept down from their northern strongholds and overran Sanaa in September.

 
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