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Houthis clash with tribesmen in Dhamar.

SANA'A, Nov. 23--Clashes broke out on Sunday at noon between Houthis and members of the powerful Bayt Hanash tribe in Dhamar city, located in Yemen's Dhamar governorate. The clashes left one Houthi injured.

"The clashes started when qat merchants at the market refused to continue paying taxes to the Bayt Hanash tribe on Sunday," said Khalid Al-Ghubari, a member of the Houthi Political Office in Dhamar governorate. "The Bayt Hanash tribe has been collecting taxes from merchants in the qat market for years, keeping large portions of the revenues they collect for themselves, and giving just a small percentage to the central government," he said. "We instructed all merchants on Sunday to cease paying taxes to any group, unless they can provide you with a receipt from the Central Bank of Yemen."

The incident was the first instance of clashes against the Houthis since the group took over the governorate peacefully on Oct. 14.

Abdul Ghani Saleh Mujahed Al-Ansi, a qat dealer in the market and eye witness to the clashes, confirmed that he and other merchants stopped paying taxes to the Bayt Hanash tribe on Sunday, at the request of the Houthis. "Bayt Hanash leaders used to come down to the market every day to collect taxes," he said. "However, on Sunday we refused to pay, and told their representative to leave. A few hours later, dozens of armed Bayt Hanash tribesmen arrived at the market and started firing at Houthis who were stationed in the area," he said.

Al-Ansi added that the market closed for several hours during and after the clashes, but that the situation was currently under control and that the market was once again reopened and operating.

Abdullah Al-Sady, deputy director of the Dhamar Security Bureau, told the Yemen Times that the Bayt Hanash tribe has been collecting taxes from residents in the area for many years. "The Houthis are attempting to re-organize things, and bring everything under the supervision of the government," he said. "This has not left the Bayt Hanash tribe very happy."

He described the clashes as an isolated incident, and rejected the notion that they could be indicative of a broader resistance brewing against the Houthis. Al-Ghubari added that Abu Ali, the Houthi leader in Al-Dhamar governorate, was currently in negotiations with Bayt Hanash leaders to resolve the dispute peacefully, adding that as of now, the situation was under control.

Mohammad Abdu Ahmad, an employee within the Dhamar governorate Tax Authority, agreed that Bayt Hanash tribesmen were collecting taxes from qat merchants working at the Ans qat market, and keeping most of the revenue for themselves. However, he could not provide an estimate as to how much the Bayt Hanash tribe was collecting, or what percentage of taxes they shared with the government. The Yemen Times attempted to contact leaders of the Bayt Hanash tribe but were unable to reach them.

These clashes took place one week after Houthi leader Khalid Al-Wishali was assassinated by unknown assailants in the Ans qat market on Nov. 17. AQAP claimed responsibility for the assassination the next day on Twitter, alleging that the murderer was one of their fighters from Rada'a district of Yemen's Al-Baida governorate.

Al-Ghubari claimed that some locals in Dhamar governorate were affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), or "other groups," who opposed the Houthis, although he did not mention any specific connection between these groups and the Bayt Hanash tribe or any of its members. These groups, he said, have been trying to sow chaos in Dhamar governorate since the Houthi takeover on Oct. 14, to undermine the Houthis' legitimacy.

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Publication:Yemen Times (Sana'a, Yemen)
Geographic Code:7YEME
Date:Nov 25, 2014
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