Saudi Arabia Claims Victory Over Yemeni Rebels
ARI SHAPIRO, Host:
Throughout today's program we're reporting on President Obama's first State of the Union speech. The president urged his fellow Democrats to solve problems and pass a health care bill, not to, quote, "run for the hills." He also pressed Republicans to take responsibility.
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
The Saudis recently took journalists to the border area, including Kelly McEvers.
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KELLY MCEVERS: Our trucks head up a road that looks like it's been freshly cut into a steep mountain. Sniper nests have been carved out of the rock and each peak is manned by an armed lookout. Up top, standing under a battered Saudi flag, Major General Said al-Gamdi(ph) says the Houthis controlled this strategic mountain, known as Gebel Doud(ph), up to two weeks ago. But now the Saudis have retaken it.
SAID AL: (Foreign language spoken)
MCEVERS: Here's Gamdi's interpreter.
AL: (Through translator) Our forces, they have sealed the roads and they cut of the enemy supplies.
MCEVERS: Gamdi points down the mountain toward what's left of a village he says the Houthis had occupied.
AL: (Through translator) That area (unintelligible) they were buried in their places.
MCEVERS: Unidentified Man: They are justifying, they are justifying their weaknesses.
MCEVERS: But despite the claims on both sides that the Houthis are now gone from Saudi territory, Captain Ahmed Mohammed Aswani(ph) says he recently fired on a Houthi sniper on this side of the border. How recently, a reporter asks.
AHMED M: Unidentified Man #2: Night vision.
MCEVERS: Aswani says the Houthis operate almost exclusively on foot and hide out in caves.
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MCEVERS: Back down the mountain, Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan has arrived to inspect the troops. He says the Houthis will have to meet certain conditions before the Saudis agree to a full ceasefire.
PRINCE KHALED BIN SULTAN: If they want to prove what they say they have to draw even the snipers, because every sniper there is, that means an attack in the Saudi soil.
MCEVERS: And he said they have to return six Saudis who officials say are being held prisoner. Prince Khaled also offered a third condition, aimed not at the Houthis but the Yemeni government.
KHALED BIN SULTAN: I hope that, you know, the Yemeni armed forces would be as a buffer zone in the border.
MCEVERS: Prince Khaled said the issue is now an internal problem for the government of Yemen. He spoke in front of a parade formation of hundreds of infantry men and paratroopers ringed by heavy and light mobile artillery.
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MCEVERS: For NPR News, I'm Kelly McEvers.
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