Tribal forces in eastern Yemen clash with Saudis

Regional committee condemns the attempted ‘Saudi intrusion’ in the town of Shahn.

Saudi forces Yemen
Saudi Arabia deployed forces to al-Mahra province in 2017, saying it served as a smuggling route for the Houthi rebels [File: Ali Owidha/ Reuters]

Saudi troops have clashed with tribal forces in eastern Yemen’s al-Mahra province near the Omani border, a tribal source told Al Jazeera.

Saudi forces on Monday attempted to storm the town of Shahn “using heavy gunfire” that wounded at least one person, the source said, adding that helicopters and armoured vehicles were deployed in the assault which was repelled.

There was no immediate comment from the Saudi-led coalition, which has been fighting against Houthi rebels in Yemen since 2015.

In a statement, the al-Mahra peaceful committee denounced the attempted “Saudi intrusion”.

“The committee condemns these practices and violations committed by the Saudi occupation and its militias against our people,” the statement said. “It constitutes a flagrant violation of Yemeni sovereignty and national identity.”

“In this dangerous turning point of our honorable history, we call on all the tribes of the province, their sheikhs and their dignitaries, and their citizens to unite alongside all the liberals of the province to prevent the Saudi occupation from imposing its domination al-Mahra,” the statement continued.

The isolated, eastern al-Mahra province, the second-largest in terms of area in Yemen, has largely escaped the worst of the fighting that has engulfed the rest of the country since 2015.

In 2017, Saudi Arabia deployed armed forces in the province after claiming al-Mahra served as a major smuggling weapons point from Oman into Yemen for the Houthi rebel group through land crossings or by sea.

Saudi forces currently control the province’s airport and main seaport, and has established more than a dozen military bases, leading to frequent tensions – which have sometimes spilled over into outright clashes – with some tribesmen and residents.

Saudi Arabia led a coalition of Arab states which intervened in Yemen’s conflict in 2015 in support of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who had been forced out of the capital Sanaa by Houthi rebels. The coalition is now led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Since the beginning of the conflict in Yemen, tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions driven to the brink of famine in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Source: Al Jazeera