Yemen’s Huthis defiant as US labels rebels ‘terrorists’

SANAA (AFP) – Yemen’s Huthis were defiant on Monday after Washington said it will designate the rebels as terrorists, a last-ditch move under United States (US) President Donald Trump that the United Nations (UN) and US lawmakers warned would worsen the humanitarian crisis.

Unless Congress blocks the decision, the Huthis will be blacklisted on January 19 – one day before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, whose aides had hoped to push to end Yemen’s devastating six-year war.

Huthi political commander Mohamed Ali al-Huthi condemned the US move in a tweet and said they had “the right to respond”.

“The Yemeni people don’t care about any designation from Trump’s administration, as it is a partner in killing Yemenis and starving them.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh also condemned the US announcement, warning “it’s likely the bankrupt US government will do further damage to its reputation” in Trump’s final days in office.

Lebanon’s pro-Iran Hezbollah movement called it “a criminal move aimed at undermining the leadership of the Yemeni people”.

The designation aims to hold the rebel movement “accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure and commercial shipping”, Pompeo said last Sunday.

The Huthis have “led a brutal campaign that has killed many people, continues to destabilise the region and denies Yemenis a peaceful solution to the conflict in their country”.

The Yemeni government said the Huthis deserved the designation for “continuous efforts to prolong the conflict and cause the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, while Riyadh said the move would help put “an end to the activities” of the rebels.

Pompeo also designated three leaders of the movement as terrorists, including their chief Abdul Malik al-Huthi.

He pointed to a December 30 attack on an airport in Yemen’s second city Aden, which killed 26 people and was blamed by the Saudi-backed government on the Huthis.

The Huthis control the capital Sanaa and much of the north, and are already under US sanctions.