Yemeni tribes threaten war over Sauder border wall

Friday, February 20, 2004

Yemeni tribes along the border with Saudi Arabia have warned of a war with the kingdom unless it halts its project to construct a security fence and barrier along the 1,800-kilometer border.

Yemeni media reported that the Wayliah tribe has pledged to recruit thousands of fighters to destroy the Saudi fence. The media said the Wayilah has claimed that the fence is being constructed inside territory allocated to the tribe.

"We are renewing our objection to the agreements that created a barrier between us and our lands and our property," a statement by the tribe said. "Similarly, we reject the principle of compensation or the division of land or of the tribe."

The Wayilah is said to own 200 military vehicles and thousands of assault rifles. The tribe has engaged in battles for control against both Saudi and Yemeni tribes, Middle East Newsline reported. Saudi Arabia is said to have financed the rival Dahm tribe.

"Every new border route will be null and void, and has nothing to do with the tribal border route recognized by the Wayilah and Yam tribes," the statement said.

The threats by the tribe have alarmed the government in Sanaa. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh arrived in Riyad on Tuesday to discuss the security fence with Saudi leaders.

"The security of Yemen and Saudi Arabia is inseparable, and what concerns the security of the kingdom concerns Yemen and vice versa," Saleh said.

A Wayilah tribal leader told the Yemen Times on Feb. 12 that up to 3,000 tribesmen would attack Saudi Arabia unless its forces withdrew from the so-called neutral zone inside Yemen. The zone was said to extend from Jabal Hobash to Jabal Al Fara.

The Saudi security fence, the tribe said, was erected between four to seven kilometers beyond the neutral zone.

Yemen has maintained that the security fence was built in a common area designated as a grazing ground for both countries. The area, set by a treaty concluded in 2000, is said to comprise a 20-kilometer border stretch that encompasses Saudi and Yemeni territory.

The Saudi media said Riyad after intervention from Egypt and the United States has agreed to remove a portion of the security fence along its border with Yemen. Saudi officials have not confirmed this.

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