From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Mon Sep 21 2009 - 09:03:53 EDT
Yemen's North Hit by Bloodiest Fighting in Years
/index.html?inline=nyt-per> ROBERT F. WORTH
Published: September 21, 2009
BEIRUT, Lebanon - The Yemeni Army fought back a major offensive by rebels in
the northern city of Sadah early Sunday morning, killing dozens of
insurgents, witnesses and Yemeni officials said.
The battle appears to have been the boldest rebel attack yet in five weeks
of renewed fighting in
men/index.html?inline=nyt-geo> Yemen's remote and mountainous Sadah
Province, near the border with Saudi Arabia. The <http://www.almenpar.net/>
Houthi rebels have been clashing intermittently with Yemen's government for
five years, and the latest round of fighting, which erupted last month after
a yearlong cease-fire, has been the bloodiest so far.
The attack began just before dawn Sunday, witnesses said, as hundreds of
Houthi rebels ambushed three military checkpoints and tried to take over the
presidential palace in Sadah, the provincial capital.
The rebels appear to have hoped the start of the Muslim holiday of Id
al-Fitr and the government's announcement of a unilateral suspension of
fighting on Friday would give them the element of surprise.
But the better-armed military was ready and fought the rebels back,
witnesses and officials said. Reports of the death toll varied, with some
news agencies saying more than 140 rebels had been killed. There was no word
on whether any Yemeni soldiers died.
The foiled ambush came days after a government airstrike in Amran Province,
near the border with Sadah, killed dozens of civilian refugees, drawing
condemnations from human rights groups. The Sadah conflict has displaced
tens of thousands of people, international monitors say, leaving many
refugees stranded without adequate food or water.
The <http://www.moi.gov.ye/> Yemeni government says the rebels are
preventing civilians from leaving the conflict zone, and has accused them of
using civilians as human shields.
Despite their geographical isolation, the rebels have acquired an
increasingly sophisticated arsenal, largely by capturing or buying
government weapons. In propaganda videotapes, Houthi soldiers can be seen
driving Yemeni Army tanks. The Yemeni government has accused the rebels of
receiving unofficial support from Iran, but the Houthis deny it. The
conflict in Sadah, which began in 2004, has a sectarian element: the Houthis
are <http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/intro/islam-zaydi.htm> Zaidis,
an offshoot of Shiite Islam that is fairly common in Yemen, and the
government has used radical Sunni militants as proxy forces against them.
The government has accused the Houthis of trying to restore the traditional
Zaidi-led imamate that largely ruled Yemen until 1962. The Houthis deny it,
saying they merely want more autonomy in Sadah and restitution for war
The Sadah conflict has underscored the vulnerability of Yemen. Desperately
poor, the country is also facing a separatist movement in the south and a
resurgent presence of
a/index.html?inline=nyt-org> Al Qaeda that has become a deep concern for the
United States. The government's ability to cope with such challenges has
long been limited by Yemen's deep tribal traditions and its rugged terrain.
Khaled al-Hammadi contributed reporting from Yemen.
The New York Times
Rebels ambushed three military checkpoints in Sadah.
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