Middle East

Yemen clashes kill nearly 40 as UN envoy presses rebel talks

A follower of the Shiite Houthi movement inspects a house belonging to an officer of the Yemen army, which was damaged during clashes with army soldiers, in Wadi Dhahr suburb of the Yemeni capital Sanaa September 17, 2014. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

SANAA: Fighting between Shiite rebels and Sunni Islamists backed by troops killed nearly 40 people outside Sanaa Thursday, as the UN envoy huddled in the rebel stronghold to try to end Yemen's political crisis.

Fighting raged between the rebels, known as Huthis or Ansarullah, and fighters of the Islah (Reform) party in Shamlan, just north of the capital, where rebels have been camped for weeks.

It has spread to Iman University of religion which belongs to top Islah cleric Abdulmajid al-Zindani, they said.

"More than 38 people were killed and dozens more wounded," a security official told AFP, his numbers confirmed by hospital sources.

Most of the casualties occurred in clashes after tribal fighters ambushed a rebel convoy on the road linking Shamlan and the university, with a tribal source saying 30 Huthis had also been taken prisoner.

The latest deaths brought to 81 the number registered in three days of fighting.

Late Thursday, the rebels opened fire on state television headquarters in a nearby district, sparking heavy clashes there, but without interrupting broadcasting.

Residents said the building came under mortar fire, and that troops guarding it drove off the attackers.

Following the attack, President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi convened an urgent meeting of Yemen's high military and security commission to discuss the "threat" posed by Huthi escalation.

Meanwhile, UN envoy Jamal Benomar spent a second day in the rebel bastion of Saada where he had flown Wednesday and held three hours of talks with rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi that he called "constructive and positive."

The two men met again Thursday evening, with sources close to the talks saying they still face hurdles, mainly over the question of dismantling the camps set up in and around the capital.

The rebels earlier rejected an offer by President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi to name a new premier and reduce a controversial fuel price rise, two core rebel demands.

The Zaidi Shiite community, to which the Huthi rebels belong, is a minority in mainly Sunni Yemen but a majority in the northern highlands, including in the Sanaa area.

Analysts say they are trying to establish themselves as the main political force in the region.

 

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