50 troops, rebels seen killed in Yemen fighting

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Yemeni army launched a major offensive to quash a rebellion in the northern mountains, and about 50 soldiers and rebels have been killed in the two days of fighting, tribal elders and government officials said Thursday.

The army has deployed more than 2,000 troops, along with tanks, helicopters, artillery and fighter jets, against the supporters of Hussein Badr Eddin al-Houti. The rebels are holed up in the Jabal Maraan mountains in an area about 125 miles northwest of the capital San’a, the officials said.

Long-simmering tension between the government and al-Houti erupted into armed conflict on June 21 when security forces tried to arrest his supporters in Sa’dah. Last month, President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered military operations suspended to give mediation a chance, but the fighting continued.

“We’ve been ordered to end the standoff once and for all,” an official said Thursday.

Tribal elders said Thursday about 50 people had been killed and dozens wounded since the offensive began on Tuesday night. The elders, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity, said most of the casualties were soldiers.

Many wounded soldiers have been evacuated to hospitals in San’a, the elders said.

The state has offered a reward of $55,000 for al-Houti’s capture. It accuses him of sedition, attacking government buildings and security forces, forming an illegal armed group and inciting people not to pay taxes.

His group is also said to encourage anti-American sentiment through mosque speeches and demonstrations.