Today, news broke (here is the story in Marib Press) of an attack on a Republican Guard barracks near Nihm, northeast of Sana’a. Nihm is a tribe that began to completely embarrass the Republican Guards last May when Nihm tribesmen overran a Republican Guard base. The attack was carried out shortly after the same men managed to shoot down a helicopter en route to their village. While there is some dispute over whether they were transport helicopters or Russian Hind attack helicopters, one was shot down while two others were forced to land with their pilots fleeing to safety.
No one is sure of what became of those helicopters. Some of us joked that we would run for our live if we spotted three helicopters coming over the mountains into Sana’a, flying and shooting sporadically. The Nihm helicopter trio never cropped up.
In the possession of three new helicopters, they figured, what the hell, lets see if we can get that Republican Guard base. They did. After some negotiation, the base was handed back over to a new commander.
A few months later, they decided to overrun it again. This time they made sure to steal a few anti-aircraft batteries to take back home. They came in handy last September when they used those weapons to shoot down one of Yemen’s aged Russian Sukhoi fighter jets as it flew over Nihm.
In every major engagement between Nihm and the Republican Guard, Nihm has won.
A few months ago I spoke with Sheikh Fu’ad Abdul Aziz al-Shuleif, one of the most influential sheikhs in Nihm. In that interview, al-Shuleif expressed his support for the “youth revolution” and mentioned that youth from Nihm had been living at Change Square for some time.
“We were willing to enter Sana’a and give a hand,” al-Shuleif said, “but the Nihm youth there told us to remain here and get a tight grip on the tribe.” He said
That’s exactly what they’ve been doing. Al-Shuleif also mentioned that they had asked other Nihm tribesmen serving in the military to desert and to return home to train other tribesmen. This included training in tanks, anti-aircraft weapons, and artillery. Apparently, it’s been paying off.