Hundreds of soldiers in the Al-Fatah Brigade in Sa'ada revolted against Major General Radad Al-Hashimi, blaming him for the Houthi ambush in August
Saudi-backed Salafi commander survives mutiny on Yemen's border
Violent clashes erupted between rank-and-file soldiers and the leadership of a Saudi-backed military brigade stationed in Yemen’s northern Sa’ada governorate in recent days.
Nearly 300 soldiers in the Al-Fatah Brigade were arrested and transferred to prisons inside Saudi Arabia after revolting against their commander, Major General Radad Al-Hashimi, on charges of corruption and incompetence, according to a military official in the army’s Fifth Military Region on the Red Sea coast.
The Al-Fatah brigade is a relatively newly-formed fighting force made up of thousands of Yemen soldiers mostly from Taiz and Ibb, established under Saudi sponsorship in 2016 to help contain the Houthis along the Kitaf-Najran border area. The Yemeni military officially recognizes it as a brigade within the Kitaf Military Axis of the Fifth Military Region, but in reality has no influence over it.
On Saturday, the protesters accused Al Hashimi, a Salafi sheikh who is also the commander of the Kitaf Military Axis, of looting the soldiers’ salaries, failing to pay the dues of soldiers killed in battle and confiscating military supplies.
The official estimated nearly 600 soldiers participated in the protests, traveling from Taiz, Ibb and Aden to demand the removal of Al-Hashimi and those responsible for the brigade's humiliating defeat by the Houthis in late August and early September. Hundreds of Saudi-backed Yemeni fighters were killed and imprisoned in the Houthi offensive along the border straddling the city of Najran in Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s district of Kitaf in Sa’ada governorate. The protesters accused Al-Hashimi of incompetence while leading the troops during the Najran attack, claiming that the pro-Saudi Yemeni fighters weren’t given adequate support, food and water after the Houthi invasion.
An officer in the Al-Fatah Brigade who spoke on condition of anonymity told Almasdar Online that Al-Hashimi described the protesters as rebels, saboteurs, and reformers, belonging to Yemen’s Islamist Islah party and ordered to suppress the revolt. Dozens were injured and seven soldiers died in the ensuing clashes.
The officer, who witnessed the ongoing clashes, said that the violence continued until a Saudi committee intervened.
The Kitaf Military Axis Command issued a statement Tuesday, stating that the “sedition” had been eliminated thanks to the support of the Arab coalition and Yemeni military leadership.
In addition to demanding the resignation of Al-Hashimi, the soldiers were protesting on behalf of Ahmed al-Najashi, a commander of a sector within the Al-Fatah Brigade, who refused to hand over his position to a close associate of Al-Hashimi’s named Abu Hudaifah. After surviving an assassination attempt on Monday, Al-Najashi was taken away by Saudi soldiers, according to the source inside the brigade.
The Saudi’s decision to appoint Al-Hashimi as the brigade’s commander was based more on his loyalty to the Kingdom than his military experience. Prominent militia leader and tribal sheikh, Sheikh Hammoud Saeed Al-Mekhlafi, has called on the Al-Fatah Brigade’s soldiers from Taiz to return home, having established a military camp for hundreds of the returnees in Yafros near Taiz City.