Monday, January 29, 2007

Islamists threaten Yemeni Jews for selling wine


Nearly a quarter Yemen's Jews have fled their village and sought refuge at a hotel in the Arab country after militant Islamists threatened to kill them for selling alcohol, a government official said on Monday.

The official, who asked not to be named, said authorities had deployed policemen around the hotel to protect the Jews, numbering at least 45, after they escaped the village of Al Salem in the northern province of Saada two weeks ago.

Just 200 Jews live in Yemen after thousands were evacuated to Israel in 1948.

"The Shi'ite militants of (Abdel-Malik) al-Houthi sent threats to them (Jews) because they sell wine," the official told Reuters. The Jewish community denied they sold wine.

Islam forbids the sale or drinking of alcohol.

"We are protecting them. They are in a safe place," the official added.

Houthi is a brother of a hardline Shi'ite cleric Hussein al-Houthi who was killed in 2004. His group is seeking to set up an Islamist state in Yemen.

His followers killed six Yemeni soldiers and wounded more than 20 on Saturday when they attacked state buildings near the hotel in Saada, were the Jews are being sheltered. Officials said the two incidents were not linked.

"After two weeks, we are still in the hotel. It is the shelter that the government provided for us after we were threatened by Houthi," Jewish cleric David Merhavi told Reuters by telephone.

"We do not sell wine, this is only propaganda."

Yemeni Jews flee Islamist threat


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