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Cease-fire brokered in north Yemen as violence grips Sanaa

An army soldier checks cars at a checkpoint on a street in Sanaa February 3, 2014. (REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

SANAA: The Yemeni government brokered a cease-fire in the north of the country Monday to end bloody clashes there, as a series of overnight explosions hit the capital, underscoring the interim government’s weak grip on security.

President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi sent Sanaa Governor Abdel-Qader Hilal to the northern province of Amran to try and end violence which erupted between the Houthi rebels and members of the powerful Hashid tribe on Jan. 5 and has left scores of people dead.

On his Facebook page, Hilal said both sides had welcomed his mediation efforts and agreed to sign a deal on a “cease-fire, opening roads, and the withdrawal of fighters.”

Tribal sources said fighting which raged last week, killing an estimated 150 people and wounding 400, subsided Monday to allow mediation efforts.

The Houthi rebels have been advancing from their stronghold in the mountains of the far north to other areas nearer the capital to expand their hoped-for autonomous area in a promised federal Yemen, political sources say.

Hadi has pledged that Yemen will adopt a federal constitution in a bid to address local grievances that have fueledviolence across the Arab world’s poorest country.

But at a ceremony last month to mark the conclusion of a troubled 10-month national dialogue, he postponed any decision on the thorny issue of how many components it would have, promising that a special commission will decide.

The prospect of a federal Yemen was originally mooted as a way to address grievances of the formerly independent south, where secessionist violence has also been rising.

A mortar bomb struck near the French Embassy overnight, and a car bomb exploded meters away in the Hada diplomatic district, according to police.

The French Foreign Ministry said there was no indication its embassy had been targeted.

The attacks came after midnight and wounded three people, the police source said.

The mortar round struck beside a concrete block installed for security reasons on a road to the embassy, the source added.

It hit shortly after a car bomb exploded on the nearby main road, near the residence of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saleh continues to play an influential political role and is accused by critics of trying to destabilize the country since an uprising led to his ouster in February 2012.

Two other explosions near the Defense Ministry left no casualties, police said.

Also Monday, gunmen ambushed the deputy head of police intelligence in Aden, Lt. Col. Awad al-Dahbul, in the Khor Maksar neighborhood, a security official said.

Dahbul and three of his guards were wounded, the official said.

An oil sector official said the latest kidnap victim was a Briton who worked in the industry, although there was no immediate confirmation of this.

“Gunmen in a car kidnapped the British man at around 9 a.m. near a grocery store in Hada,” a heavily patrolled district in central Sanaa where several embassies are located, the official told AFP.

Witnesses said the kidnappers struck the victim on the head with the butt of a rifle before whisking him off in a car.

The British Embassy said it could not immediately confirm the reported abduction.

“We are aware of the news. We still cannot confirm,” a spokesman told AFP.

Tribesmen Friday abducted a German in Sanaa and later said they had snatched him to press authorities to release jailed relatives.

The Foreign Ministry said that the German national was being held in a tribal region in the eastern province of Marib.

Hundreds of people have been kidnapped in Yemen over the past 15 years, mostly by tribesmen who use them as bargaining chips in disputes with the government. Nearly all have been freed unharmed.

Al-Qaeda militants have also abducted foreigners in Yemen and is currently holding a South African man, as well as a Saudi and a Yemeni diplomat.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 04, 2014, on page 1.

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Summary

The Yemeni government brokered a cease-fire in the north of the country Monday to end bloody clashes there, as a series of overnight explosions hit the capital, underscoring the interim government's weak grip on security.

President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi sent Sanaa Governor Abdel-Qader Hilal to the northern province of Amran to try and end violence which erupted between the Houthi rebels and members of the powerful Hashid tribe on Jan. 5 and has left scores of people dead.

Tribal sources said fighting which raged last week, killing an estimated 150 people and wounding 400, subsided Monday to allow mediation efforts.

The prospect of a federal Yemen was originally mooted as a way to address grievances of the formerly independent south, where secessionist violence has also been rising.

The attacks came after midnight and wounded three people, the police source said.


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