Source: AFP 11/05/2010
SANAA — Two Yemeni soldiers and an unstated number of Shiite Zaidi rebels were killed on Monday in the north in the first such clash since the two parties agreed a truce in February, a security official said.
Several others from both sides were wounded in the clash in the Harf Sufyan district of Amran Province, some 70 kilometres (45 miles) north of the capital, the official told AFP, requesting anonymity.
"The exchange of fire between the Huthis (rebels) and the army took place after a vehicle belonging to the Huthis overturned on the road of Bart triangle in Harf Sufyan," he said.
The official said the Huthis blocked the road linking Harf Sufyan and Saada, the stronghold of the northern rebels, and that the two sides exchanged shellfire for about 30 minutes before mediators managed to restore calm.
In a statement, the Huthis accused the army of ambushing the rebels who were in the vehicle, and they acknowledged that a number of rebels were killed in the firefight.
"Soldiers have ambushed a (rebel) leader which led to a gunfight that resulted in the death of several soldiers and some of us," they said, adding that the road was blocked "because of the clash."
The statement acknowledged, however, that calm had been restored.
Although sporadic clashes between the rebels and neighbouring tribes loyal to the Sanaa government have been reported since a truce was enforced in February, this was the first clash with the army.
Yemen launched an all-out offensive against the Huthis last August in a bid to eradicate their five-year revolt.
The rebels later also locked horns with Saudi forces after accusing Riyadh of allowing Yemen's military to use its territory to stage attacks in border areas.
In February the government and rebels reached a truce.
This required the opening of major routes in the north, rebels withdrawing from official buildings and captured army posts, the return of arms seized from security forces, release of all prisoners including Saudis and a pledge not to attack Saudi Arabia.
Many northerners were displaced by the conflict, with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees putting the number at more than 250,000 people.
Yemeni authorities have accused the rebels of seeking to restore the Zaidi Shiite imamate that ruled in Sanaa until its overthrow in a 1962 republican coup that sparked eight years of civil war.
The rebels, who complain of economic and political discrimination against the north's Zaidis, have repeatedly denied the charge.