SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen's Shiite rebels on Friday released 20 detainees held in the western province of Ibb following pressure from local non-government groups, Yemeni security officials said.
The 20, including several activists and journalists, were taken several weeks ago ahead of their planned march to the city of Taiz to protest its siege by the rebels known as Houthis, the officials said.
Yemen's fighting pits the Houthis and allied army units against forces loyal to the internationally recognized government as well as southern separatists and militants. The U.N. says at least 2,615 civilians have been killed since a Saudi-led air campaign targeting Houthis began in March.
Also in Ibb province, dozens of families fled the town of Damt where clashes Friday between Houthis and pro-government fighters killed five civilians, wounded 20 and destroyed five homes, security officials there said. The Houthis aim to secure Damt to pave the way for the well-defended southerners' stronghold of Dhale province, a gateway to the government-controlled port city of Aden, the officials added. The Houthis have lost nearly 3,000 fighters in previous battles for the fiercely anti-Houthi province since March.
Dhale is home to many military personnel, which gives its local anti-Houthi militias the organization they lack elsewhere, the officials explained.
Meanwhile in Bayda province, ground fighting raged, killing at least 34 fighters on both sides, security officials said. Some of the bodies lay scattered on the ground, witnesses told The Associated Press.
All officials who detailed the latest developments have remained neutral in the conflict that has splintered Yemen. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to reporters. The witnesses in Bayda declined to give their names, fearing reprisals.