SANAA, 15 February 2007 — At least 20 army and police personnel and 75 rebels have been killed in four days of skirmishes as Yemeni government forces pursued guerrilla fighters loyal to a rebel leader in the northern Yemeni province of Saada, military officials said yesterday.
Officials told Arab News that nearly eight districts of Saada, some 230 km north of Sanaa, have been the scene of fierce fighting between the Yemeni Army and followers of Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi, who is leading an armed rebellion in the province.
Eighteen army troops and two policemen have been killed since government forces began a massive offensive on the followers of Al-Houthi, who authorities have accused of leading an outlawed militant group called “Believing Youth.”
The officials said that as many as 75 rebels were killed as the army regained control of seven mountain locations used by the rebels in the restive province. The new army deaths bring to 62 the death toll among government forces since fighting renewed in late December.
The daily Al-Ayyam newspaper reported that an army colonel was buried at his home town in southern Yemen yesterday after he was killed in an ambush by Al-Houthi followers in Saada. The officer, Muhammad Jabir Othman, and a bodyguard were instantly killed and two other bodyguards were injured in the attack, the newspaper said, adding that six Al-Houthi followers were also killed. No exact tally on the total casualties among rebels was available.
Residents of several mountainous areas in Saada said the army has asked them to leave their homes prior to anti-rebel attacks in those areas. On Sunday, government forces launched a major assault on rebel positions in Saada after weeks of tit-for-tat attacks.
Saada has been the scene of a military standoff between government forces and armed followers of Al-Houthi for the past six weeks. Officials have accused Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi of leading remnants of the banned “Believing Youth” group.
The group was established by his elder brother Hussein Al-Houthi, who was killed by the army in September 2004. Bloody confrontations have since left over 720 government troops dead, according to the official toll.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has accused Al-Houthi followers of trying to establish an illegal state. Local media reports have recently quoted government officials accusing Iran and Libya of financing the rebels.