120 killed in fighting between Yemen troops, rebels

Army soldiers man a checkpoint in al-Mahfad, in the southern Yemeni province of Abyan, in this May 23, 2014, file photo. Yemeni forces have to contend with Al-Qaeda insurgents as well as Houthi Shitte rebels. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

SANAA: At least 120 people were killed in northern Yemen on Monday in fighting between Shiite Muslim Houthi rebels and government forces before a cease-fire was agreed, a Yemeni official said on Tuesday.

Ahmed Al-Bekry, deputy governor of Omran province, said that Yemeni war planes bombed positions held there by Houthi fighters and army forces clashed with the rebels, killing around 100 of them. He said about 20 government soldiers were killed as well.

He said fighting ended by Monday evening after the sides agreed a cease-fire and no clashes were reported on Tuesday.

“Things are calm (today) after mediation efforts led by the interior minister,” Bekry told Reuters, adding Yemeni air force action on Monday was one of the main reasons for the Houthis’ assent to a truce.

Yemen has been in turmoil since 2011, when mass protests forced long-ruling president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

As well as the fighting in Omran, where the Shiite tribal militia is trying to cement its control over the northern highlands, Yemen is facing a threat from Al-Qaeda and a challenge from separatists in the south.

Clashes have repeatedly erupted in the past months between government troops and Houthis — named after the Shiite tribe of its leaders — as Sanaa struggles to restore nationwide control.

The Houthis blame elements of the Sunni Muslim Islah party within government forces and in the Omran local administration for the fighting.

Government officials say the Houthis, who have repeatedly fought government forces since 2004, are trying to tighten their grip on the north before next year’s election and as Yemen eyes moves toward a federal-style devolution of power to regions.





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