Yemen’s Houthis Overrun al-Qaeda Stronghold

Army Fought Alongside Shi'ite Rebels

The increasing instability in Yemen continues to grow more complex today, with the Shi’ite Houthi rebels successfully capturing one of the primary strongholds of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the city of Radda.

The fact that the Houthis and AQAP are at odds is nothing new. Rather, it was that neither side fought alone. AQAP had Sunni tribesmen coming to its aid in defending the city, and perhaps more importantly, the Houthi offensive was backed up by the Yemeni Army.

The army’s involvement added to rumors that former dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, a Shi’ite, was pushing the Shi’ite rebellion. Saleh retains considerable support in the military leadership, despite multiple purges by the Hadi government.

Yet Saleh was a fierce opponent of the Houthis when he was in office, vowing to stop funding schools to pay for a war against the Houthi rebellion in 2009, and backing Sunni Islamists in moving into the Houthi homeland, a move which eventually exploded this year into a new rebellion, in which the Houthis routed those Islamists and seized the capital city.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of