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Arab Spring: Jihad Turns Inward in Yemen

A reactionary Sunni school in Yemen has declared jihad on the Huthi rebels who have laid siege to its compound in a bid to seize the region.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 11/30/2011, 7:57 PM

Rayah, Black Flag of Jihad
Rayah, Black Flag of Jihad
CC/Gontol Royo

The principal of a Sunni school in Yemen's northern province of Sa'ada declared Jihad on Al Huthi rebels who have laid a month-long seige on the school.

"The Imam of Dar Al Hadeeth in Dammaj district, Yahya Al Hajouri, has declared war on the fighters of Huthi rebels who refuse to break their blockade on the school," Radad Al Hashimi , a student in the school told Gulf News.

Shira rebels haved shelled the school, and snipers have maintained a steady fire, killing more than 30 students.

Located in an area overrun by the rebels, the school was established in the 1980s by late Mogbel Al Wadie, a reactionary Sunni cleric. The school compound can accomodate some 10,000 students. Roughly 10% of the students are from foreign countries.

"I have received many calls from our brothers in UAE, Saudi Arabia , Canada and other counties who are eagerly to ready to join in. We do not need their help right now because many tribesmen rushed to support. But if we could not defeat them, we would  ask for help from our brothers on the outside."Al Hashimi added.

"Due to the blockade, families are forced to live on subsistence. They are running out fuel, food and drinking water," he added.

Huthi fighters, who have waged a series of six sporadic wars against Yemen's government since 2004, denied the accusations of killing students in Dammaj district and accused media of publishing fabricated and unfounded stories. Huthi fighters also accused the school of fabricating accusations claiming they are "non-believers."

A group of 13 aid workers who sought access to the school were stopped by Huthi fighters. Of the group, three were ultimately allowed to enter the compound.

"People in the besieged school live in an extremely difficult situation. There is no medicine and food and many injured people bled to death due to lack of doctors and medicine," Mohammad Al Ahmadi, a member of the group, told Gulf News.

"More than 26 people died in two days of shelling. Families are starving and many children could die soon. The rebels roughed up the activists and confiscated the memory of my camera. They were afraid that we would publish the photos that we got from the school."

Yemen, an impoverished nation divided by regional and tribal affiliation, has long been tenuously held together by the central government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sana'a.

Saleh's government, divided and embattled since the Arab Spring took hold in Yemen in February, has been unable to maintain the grip it once had leading tribal and terror groups to challenge central authority and seize their regions for themselves.