Friday, 2 July 2010

N.Yemen rebels attack tribal leader's home, kill 3

Source: Reuters, By Mohammed Ghobari

Shi'ite rebels in northern Yemen attacked the home of a pro-government tribal leader, killing three people, the government and rebels said on Friday, the latest outbreak of violence despite a five-month truce.

Yemen's government agreed a truce in February with northern rebels to halt sporadic fighting that has occurred since 2005 that has displaced 350,000 people.

The ceasefire has largely held but instability still threatens the country neighbouring top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, which was briefly drawn into the war last year when rebels seized Saudi border areas.

In a statement on its website, Yemen's Interior Ministry said rebels assaulted the home of Ibn Aziz, a tribal leader in the northern district of Harf Sufyan. He had supported the government in the war.

Aziz was not killed, but three of his followers died in an explosion, the statement said, adding that security forces were trying to catch those responsible.

Ibn Aziz's tribe is a rival Shi'ite group of the same Zaidi sect to which the rebels, called Houthis after their leader's name, also belong. Armed clashes between the groups has intensified in the past two months.

The Houthis, who complain of religious and socioeconomic discrimination by the government, confirmed the attack.

"Ibn Aziz was behind several assassinations of our followers and has caused the death of a number of citizens. He is the one who started the fighting against us," a rebel spokesmen said.

Impoverished Yemen has faced international pressure to quell its domestic conflicts, including an increasingly violent secessionist movement in the south, and to combat a resurgent al Qaeda wing in the country.

Western powers and Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda will use instability in Yemen to strengthen its foothold for attacks in the region and beyond. The global militant group's Yemen-based regional arm claimed responsibility for the failed bombing of a U.S.-bound plane in December. (Additional reporting and writing by Erika Solomon in Dubai; editing by Matthew Jones)

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