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Middle East

Eight killed in Shiite-Sunni clashes


Latest update : 2009-08-08

Eight gunmen were killed in overnight clashes in northern Yemen between Zaidi Shiite rebels and hardliner Sunni tribesmen amid ongoing tensions between the rebels and the authorities, local sources said Saturday.

AFP - Eight gunmen were killed in clashes in northern Yemen between Zaidi Shiite rebels and Sunni hardliners amid continuing tension between the rebels and the authorities, local sources said on Saturday.

The overnight fighting between rebels and tribesmen described as Salafists took place in the border area of Baqim, north of the restive Saada region which is the rebels' main bastion, sources close to the rebels said.

Salafists, from a Sunni Muslim school of thought that prevails in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, despise the Shiites.

Two of the dead gunmen were Zaidi rebels and the other six were Salafists, the sources said.

Other local sources close to the rebels said clashes with government forces have continued for several days in the Mahazer area of Saada, and that the main road linking Saada with the capital Sanaa has been blocked.

They said tension is high with strong expectations of all-out war once again erupting between government forces and the rebels, known also as Huthis.

An emailed statement apparently from the Huthis on Saturday accused the government of preparing to launch a new offensive on Saada.

It charged that MiG fighter jets and helicopters were being readied in Sanaa to launch attacks on rebel strongholds.

Rebel leader Abdel Malek al-Huthi claimed in a statement that the authorities dropped leaflets on Friday over several areas of Saada urging people to fight the Huthis, according to the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.

Zaidis, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, mostly live in generally Sunni Yemen and form a majority in the north.

Thousands of people have died since 2004 in clashes between government forces and the rebels who reject the current government and want a restoration of the Zaidi clerical regime overthrown by a 1962 military coup.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced an end to the Saada war in July last year, but hostilities have continued.

Date created : 2009-08-08