Yemeni airstrike ends ceasefire in flare-up of Houthi rebellion

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 03, 2014 3:44 AM

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni warplanes bombed Shi'ite Houthi rebels on Tuesday, residents and local officials said, ending a brief ceasefire after at least 120 were killed in a flare-up of the northern rebellion.

Ahmed al-Bekry, deputy governor of Omran province, said earlier that 100 rebels and about 20 government soldiers had died on Monday in fighting and in air strikes on Houthi positions.

He said fighting had ended on Monday evening after the sides agreed a ceasefire and the situation was calm thanks to mediation efforts by the interior minister.

No details were immediately available of casualties from Tuesday's bombing.

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 Shi'ite 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 Shi'ite tribe of the leaders of the rebellion - as Sanaa struggles to restore nationwide control.

The Houthis blame elements of the Sunni Muslim Islah party in the military and in the Omran regional administration for the fighting.

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Government officials say the Houthis, who have been fighting government forces sporadically since 2004, are trying to tighten their grip on the north before next year's election, as Yemen considers moving to a system of greater autonomy for its various regions.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Rania El Gamal, Sami Aboudi and Angus McDowall; Editing by Kevin Liffey)