THE LEVANT – Saudi cleric and TV presenter Khalid Al Gamdi has incurred Yemenis’ wrath after expressing joy with graphic photos of dead Al Houthi protesters and praising the suicide bomber who killed them.
Posting on his Twitter account on October 9, the controversial cleric, who anchors a programme on the Saudi Al Wesal channel, urged followers on social media to rejoice over the sight of the dead victims.
“God is great. enjoy watching,” he said in a tweet referring to the pictures of some burnt and mangled bodies of Al Houthi children and men.
At least 47 Houthis protesters were killed in the Yemeni capital on Thursday morning when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt at a protest gathering.
Despite not commending Al Qaida militants who took credit for the deadly attack, Al Gamdi justified his stand by saying that Al Houthis are Shiites who are involved in killing Sunnis in Yemen.
Al Houthis belong to the Zaydi branch of Shiism.
Many people angrily reacted to his comments on social media.
“[Such] clerics are infamous for many fatwas that encourage killings, suicide bombings and jihad marriage,” said Yasser Al Ahmer.
“Those [clerics] must be deterred. The blood of Yemenis, Sunni or Shiite, is not cheap,” commented Um Al Majid Al Hashemi.
Al Houthis quickly called on the Saudi government to prosecute the cleric for inciting people to kill their supporters in Yemen.
Ali Al Bikhiti, a spokesperson for the group, sent a letter to the Saudi ambassador in Yemen, urging the Saudis to suspend his show and put him on trial.
“I am shocked at Al Gamdi’s [tweets] which showed great delight at that crime,” Al Bikhiti said in his letter that was posted on Facebook page.
However, some other Saudi clerics took a similar hard-line reaction to the Al Houthis capture of the Yemeni capital last month.
Abdul Aziz Al Terifi, a Saudi scholar, said on his twitter account last month that fighting the Al Houthis and other allied factions in Yemen is a religious “duty”.
However, this is not the first time Al Gamdi, who has almost 60,000 followers on Twitter, has caused fury in Yemen.
Weeks before Al Qaida’s attack on a military hospital in the capital last year, Al Gamdi appeared on TV encouraging Sunnis in Yemen to take revenge against government security forces who had allegedly abducted some injured religious students from the same hospital in Sana’a.
The students were injured in clashes with Al Houthi fighters in the Dammaj region of Saada province. Many in Yemen have said that Al Qaida picked up on Al Gamdi’s inciting his calls and carried out the attack that claimed the lives of as many as 50 people.
Al Houthi rebels, also known as Ansar Allah, swiftly took over the Yemeni capital on September 21 after brief clashes with rival religious and tribal forces.
Al Gamdi has also in the past posted pictures of what appear to be decapitated Iraqi soldiers, saying it is “one of the most beautiful things my eyes have seen”.
He accused them of being Iranian agents.
His sectarian language on twitter has earned him an Arabic hashtag that translates to ‘Al Gamdi is one door [leading to] Daesh’, referring to the extremist group that has overrun much of Iraq and Syria and taken responsibility for dozens of beheadings.