News24

69 die in Yemen fighting

2010-07-22 16:48

Sana'a - Fresh clashes between Shi'ite Huthi rebels and army-backed tribes in north Yemen killed 20 people, a tribal official said on Thursday, bringing to at least 69 the death toll in five days of fighting that has rattled a fragile truce.

"Violent clashes took place overnight between Huthis and the Bin Aziz tribes... leaving 20 dead from both sides," the official said.

Yemeni army forces deployed in the area intervened to break up the fighting in Harf Sufyan in the northern Amran province, he added.

The rebels used "different types of weapons" in their attempt to control several locations and tighten a siege on Bin Aziz villages, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Tribal and rebel sources had said on Wednesday that at least 49 people had been killed since fighting broke out on Sunday.

MPs agree to stop violence

Tribal sources had said the confrontations involved the Huthis and supporters of tribal chief Sheikh Sagheer Aziz, but the rebels said the clashes were with the army, not the tribe.

Aziz, the tribal chief, is a member of the parliamentary bloc of the ruling General People's Congress party.

A total of 62 MPs meanwhile have signed a petition demanding the government "assume responsibility for ending violations committed by the Huthis," and threatening to suspend their parliamentary membership if the authorities failed to help Aziz.

Amran and neighbouring Saada province have seen sporadic clashes between the rebels and government-backed tribes.

The Huthis complain of political, social and religious marginalisation, and have repeatedly fought with government forces in a conflict that began in 2004, killing thousands and displacing some 250 000 people.

After six rounds of fighting between government forces and the Huthis since 2004, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh earlier this month ruled out another conflict with the rebels.

"There are no indicators for a seventh war," Saleh told a news conference, saying that would be "totally unacceptable".

Al-Qaeda ambushes army patrol

The Huthis and the government have repeatedly exchanged accusations of violating a February ceasefire which ended the latest round of conflict between the two sides.

Neighbouring Saudi Arabia became embroiled in the military fight in November after it accused the rebels of infiltrating its borders, killing one guard and occupying two villages.

In other violence in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country on Thursday, suspected al-Qaeda gunmen ambushed a Yemeni army patrol under cover of darkness in the remote east of the country, killing five soldiers and wounding one, a security official told AFP.

The attack took place on an army vehicle in Shabwa province at around 03:00, the official said.

Thursday's attack followed simultaneous raids on July 14 by some 20 suspected al-Qaeda militants on the intelligence and security service headquarters in the south Yemen town of Zinjibar in which three policemen were killed and 11 wounded.

Extremists are known to be regrouping in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and the impoverished nation has witnessed repeated attacks claimed by the jihadists on foreign missions, tourist sites and oil facilities.