The Hayjat Al Abed road, the only southern outlet to the city of Taiz, southwest of Yemen, is witnessing chaos and incidents of road-cutting and looting as well as imposing double levies on goods and truck drivers by armed gangs, some of which belong to military brigades affiliated with the internationally recognized government forces.
These armed gangs are taking illegal levies from vehicles' drivers and looting the passing travelers by force of arms under the sight of the concerned authorities, as these road interruptions have recently led to the murdering of some truck drivers as well as the travelers and looting of their properties.
At the beginning of this month, one of the truck drivers was shot dead by armed road blockers, on the highway between the governorates of (Aden - Taiz). The murdered was a 17-year-old teenager; Akram Mohammed Al Aza'azi, while he was driving the truck with his father, who was shocked by firing live bullets by the sporadic directly without warning.
With a pale face and a husky voice, Mohammed Youssef Al-Aza'azi, the father of the youngster Akram, recounts the awful incident of his son's killing, to "Khuyut", saying: "At exactly two o'clock in the morning, I was returning with my son Akram from Aden governorate on board of my truck, and in the Mua'awiyah area in Tur Al Baha, I was stunned by direct fire shooting, hitting my son in the head without any warning.”
Al Aza'azi continues: "I completely froze when I saw my beloved child covered in his blood, following a treacherous bullet shot he had received from bandits and tax collectors, on the road to Tor Al Baha in Lahj Governorate (southern Yemen)."
What is happening on the road between Aden-Lahj (southern Yemen) and Taiz, exacerbates the suffering of citizens and traders' trucks who bear excessive burdens, while passing through, due to the unofficial tax and fees imposed by check points spread along the road, as a result of the Ansar Allah group, (Houthis) suffocating siege on the city of Taiz.
When this grieving father saw his son lying on the driver's seat, he was - according to his statement - incapacitated and unable to control the truck, which at that time had gone off the asphalt line and dumped them in an agricultural field by the side of the road.
Mohammad Al-Aza'azi lost his son and his truck to levy thieves on the Tur Al-Baha desert road, which is ruled by human wolves, living on the blood of innocent travelers and their belongings, which has become a misery for travelers in light of the apparent inaction and carelessness of the local and security authorities in Lahj Governorate.
Mohammad adds: "When the truck overturned, I came out shouting loudly and calling: Save my son, help my son'. Then one of the trucks stopped after my cry for help, but Akram did not last long, he had passed away and left the life he had not seen yet, as he is still a child in the early stage of his life.”
Al-Aza'azi did not know that his trip on that day - which had become a black day for him - would cost him such heavy loss that no one can compensate; His son and his only source of living.
In this context, commercial truck drivers in Taiz had carried out a strike that lasted for more than a week, in protest of the killing of the child Akram, near the child’s father’s house in the Al-Aza'aiz area in the Al-Shamayteen District (west of the city). The strike caused a stifling crisis in Taiz, as a result of the suspension of the transportation of goods, oil and gas derivatives.
What is happening on this road between Aden-Lahij (southern Yemen) and Taiz, exacerbates the suffering of citizens and merchants who bear great burdens, while passing through, due to the unofficial tax fees that are imposed by points along the road, as a result of the establishment of the Ansar Allah group. (Houthis) imposed a suffocating siege on the city of Taiz for more than six continuous years.
The Haijat Al-Abed road is one of the main outlets for the city of Taiz after the siege of the Ansar Allah group (Houthis) and its blocking of official highways. Consequently, the Taiz city is supplied through this road with foodstuffs and medicines, in addition to oil derivatives, since March 2015. However, in recent years it has turned into a hazardous road as a result of the hostilities faced by travelers and merchants while passing through it, which recently led to Akram's murder.
The incident is not the first and will not be the last, as it was preceded by many painful incidents. In December 2021, an armed group affiliated with the Security Belt Forces of the Southern Transitional Council stopped the citizen Abdul Malik al-Sanabani, who holds American citizenship, and took him to an unknown area, from which only he left as a dead body. This dreadful incident burned the hearts of millions of Yemenis in the north and south of Yemen, as it classified as a brutal act, followed by the killing and looting of the Doctors Without Borders International employee, Atef Al-Harazi, in October of the same year.
Involvement in looting acts
Unofficial Taxes are imposed along the road extending from the city of Aden through Lahj (southern Yemen), to the city of Taiz (southwest of the country). Sam Al-Jamali, a truck driver, constantly experiences this suffering and extortion: “From the beginning of our departure from Aden, we pay levies to many road check points that follow the Southern Transitional Council, amounting to about 100,000 (100$) for each Babur (truck),” and after a distance of three kilometers another point imposes a levy of up to 2000 riyals (2$), and thus this amount is paid for each point distributed on the road; the distance between each military point and the other one is not more than 2 km.
After that distance, the interruptions along the road increase, especially in the Tur Al Baha area, as this driver confirms to "Khuyut", describing what is happening by saying: "We try to pass through the risky road, although it is full of intermittent people, potholes and bumps, as fast as possible. Then we pass through what is called Al-Jaboli (the military military center of Tur al-Baha), where the first amount of no less than 30,000 riyals is paid (30$), after the personnel of this military point force the trucks to stop in a place designated for inspection.
After that, the trip continues to Sa’alah Al-Wadi, which belongs to Hayjat al-Abed, between Taiz (southwest) and Lahj (south), according to what this driver narrates of the drivers' suffering. There, drivers face tribal interruptions, where each driver is required to pay about 15,000 riyals, despite having previously paid about 30,000 riyals (30$), and obtaining an official receipt for this at the Jabouli point. Not only that, but in addition to the amount which they paid - according to Al-Jamali - they are subjected to insults, abuses and humiliations, and sometimes the violations may develop into shooting at them.
Moreover, after the "Ma'abak" area of the Al-Maqatirah district of Lahj Governorate, 2 km from the Jabouli point, there is another military point that collects about 30,000 riyals from each truck driver.
Truck drivers loaded with commercial goods confirm that there are military points and interruptions spread at the entrance to the city of Taiz, starting from the end of the "Hayjat al-Abed" area, where the first points of the authority of the military forces "Military center" are located in Taiz governorate at the top of "Hayjat al-Abed", passing through the "Al-Madhinah” area, where drivers are subjected to illegal levies under various names
After reaching the check point of Al-Raboa market, the passengers are confronted - according to Al-Jamali’s story – with the first point belonging to the military commander, Salem Al-Sulaihi. There, all the trucks' loads are inspected by the military guards and the type of goods are evaluated so that each truck driver has to pay about 10,000 riyals, otherwise they are subjected to insults and humiliation, which may reach the point of beating if one of the drivers objects. After leaving the "Al Raboa' market", they encounter a point called " The old Essa", in which the drivers are obligated to pay an amount similar to the previous point; (30,000 riyals).
In this regard, the spokesman for the Taiz Military Center affiliated with the internationally recognized government, Abdu Al Basit Al-Bahr, denied in a statement to "Khuyut", any relationship of the "Taiz Military center" to these military points, since these areas in which it is located do not fall within its authority and military supervision.
Additionally, Al-Bahr confirmed that the military checkpoints in these areas, which citizens, travelers and commercial truck drivers complain about, are under the control of the Second Brigade Hazm, which is affiliated with the Southern Transitional Council, and therefore the Taiz military center cannot send a security force to investigate it because these areas do not follow it, and all it can do is to send memos, and form a committee to follow up and investigate the repeated attacks against travelers and truck drivers along this road between Taiz, Lahj and Aden.
However, drivers of trucks loaded with commercial goods told “Khuyut” that there are many check points which practice banditry all over the entrance to the city of Taiz, starting from the end of the “Hayjat al-Abed” area. They confirmed that the first point is under the authority of the military forces “Military center” which are located in the Taiz governorate at the head of “Hayjat al-Abed.”, passing through the "Al-Madhina" area, where these points impose levies under various claims, including "city improvement fees", on each piece of goods loaded on trucks. While the fees are set by law at only 10 riyals, the collected fees are 50 riyals per piece, in addition to the absence of any claimed improvements.
Al-Bahr indicated, at the conclusion of his statement, that the collection bonds that are used in the areas and points that fall under the scope of the military “Taiz Military Center,” which is affiliated with the internationally recognized government, are official documents according to the law and order, and the points that carry out the collection of the bills are official and legal government points belong to official authorities such as Industry and Commerce and the Cleaning and Improvement Fund.