Yemen: After Ahmad the Devil

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Up the coast from Aden, Yemen had its own convulsion. The trouble began weeks ago, when one Colonel Abdullah Sallal, former commander of the port city of Hodeida and implicated in previous plots against the monarchy, launched a new conspiracy. It was aimed at the Imam, known as Ahmad the Devil, who had ruled despotically for 14 years, survived repeated rebellions, and liked to behead his numerous enemies in public. No one is quite sure why Sallal was plotting against the Imam, but one theory is that Sallal is a Nasser sympathizer and Nasser hated the Imam for a rude poem he had once written about Arab socialism:

The Koran says, do not nationalize other people's property.

Let us return to Islamic laws and let us have union on our own terms.

At any rate, last month Ahmad the

Devil confounded the conspirators by dying in bed. He was succeeded as Imam by Crown Prince Seif el Islam el Badr, 36, a scholarly left-winger who promised to modernize Yemen so that it could "catch up with the caravan of world progress." One of his first and most fatal acts was to appoint intriguing Colonel Sallal as commander of the palace guard.

Sallal found it easy to switch his conspiracy from father to son. The new Imam had ruled for scarcely eight days when, one night last week, he found himself a prisoner in his own mud-brick palace in the capital city of San'a. The Imam tried to shoot his way out but Sallal blasted the palace with artillery, and luckless Badr died in the ruins. At midnight, Radio San'a announced the fall of the monarchy and "the establishment of the Yemen Arab Republic."

The first nation to recognize the new republic was Russia, and Khrushchev bombastically cabled Sallal: "Any act of aggression against Yemen will be considered an act of aggression against the Soviet Union." No one yet seems to be threatening Yemen except the late Imam's relatives. Prince Hassan, Badr's uncle and chief of Yemen's U.N. delegation, took off from New York to crush the rebellion.

Colonel Sallal boasted that if Prince Hassan set foot in Yemen he would be slaughtered. Then, shrewdly, the Colonel ordered immediate and substantial pay raises for the 12,000 troops of Yemen's ragtag army.