According to the Yemeni government, its troops have killed over 100 Shi’ite rebels “who were trying to flee the town during a mopping-up operation over the past two days.” The latest toll is part of what local officials are describing as a massive expansion of its military offensive against the northern Saada Province.
The massive toll comes less than a week after a speech by Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled the country for the past 30 years, in which he promised to crush all sedition in the country’s Shi’ite north, saying that he would “buy all the new weapons needed instead of building schools.”
Yemen was ruled for over a millenia by a Shi’ite monarchy, which was ousted in the North Yemen Civil War of the 1960’s. Since then the Shi’ite region has seen very little economic development and growing power given to the Wahhabist minority has fostered considerable resentment in the impoverished area.
Yemen also recently reintroduced mandatory conscription, presented as a way to counter rising unemployment. It has, however, led to a dramatic increase in military spending, which if Saleh’s comments are to be believed is only going to rise more as this offensive picks up speed.