Tribesmen die in Yemen battle

Nine tribesmen who were "fighting alongside the Yemeni army" have been killed in a mortar attack by the Houthi rebels in northern Yemen, tribal sources told AFP on Sunday. Sixteen other fighters from the Hashed tribe (the largest tribe in Yemen) were wounded on Saturday.

These are the first reported casualties among tribal militiamen operating in collaboration with government forces.

I noted a couple of weeks ago that the conflict is becoming increasingly tribalised and quoted a report from Saba, the official news agency, which said:

Masses from many tribes of all the country's governorates are heading willingly for Saada governorate to take part in the fight against the Houthi rebels ... Well-informed sources said that businessmen and merchantmen have begun donating money ... Hundreds of thousands of youths have announced their readiness from different governorates to battle to the insurgents in the governorate of Saada.

The government no doubt thinks this is a good idea, because it assists in the immediate problem of dealing with the Houthis. In the longer term it's an extremely bad idea because it pushes Yemen further down the road from a fragile state towards a failed state. To save the country from becoming another Somalia, the government should be disbanding tribal militias, not encouraging them.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 31 August 2009.