SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Clashes in Yemen between Shiite rebels and Islamist tribesmen supported by national army units have killed at least 85 people in one week, military officials and tribal leaders said Friday.
The officials said 11 soldiers were among those killed in the ongoing battles between Shiite Hawthi rebels and tribesmen from the Islamist Islah Party in and around the city of Amran, northwest of the capital Sanaa.
Officials said the fighting has blocked the road between Sanaa and Amran and expanded to the outskirts of the capital.
Local officials in Amran said army units supporting Islamist tribesmen have cordoned off the city to block Hawthi advances. The Hawthis, however, already control areas on the outskirts of the northwestern city.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
An activist In Amran, Mahmoud Taha, said electricity has been cut off in the city and there has been a severe shortage in fuel and medication, as well as rising food prices, because of the security cordon.
Hawthis, joined by some tribes, have fought Sunni conservatives, known as Salafis, for months in sporadic bouts of violence.
In January and February, Hawthis seized Salafi strongholds and captured areas controlled by prominent leaders of the Islah Party. They shut down a school for Islamic religious studies in the northern town of Saadah that had been a main bastion of the Salafis. The fighting with the Islah Party, which is close to the Salafis, has reignited over the past few weeks in and around Amran.
The Hawthis, who belong to the Zaydi sect, a Shiite branch, accuse the Sunni ultraconservatives of trying to proselytize in their strongholds. Mediation efforts and cease-fires have failed to end the unrest in the area.
Observers say the ongoing violence has weakened the Yemeni army's ability to combat al-Qaida's powerful local branch, which is mainly active in the south.