5 killed as Shiite rebels escalate fighting near Yemeni capital
SANAA - Shiite rebels believed to be seeking to advance on Yemen's capital have attacked an army post in a neighbouring city, killing three soldiers and losing two of their own, tribal sources said Thursday.
The Zaidi rebels, also known as Ansarullah or Huthis, carried out the attack in Amran, 50 kilometres north of Sanaa, late on Wednesday, tribal sources said.
Military sources have said their objective was to seize Amran and, from there, lay siege to the capital.
The Huthis have fought the government for years, complaining of marginalisation under former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted in 2012 following a year of protests.
Saleh's successor, President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, and party leaders have agreed to transform Yemen into a six-region federation as part of a political transition but the rebels argue that this would divide Yemen into rich and poor regions.
They are now embroiled in a campaign to try and expand their sphere of influence and are trying to push out from their mountain stronghold in the north, to areas closer to the capital Sana.
Amran has been the scene of months of sporadic fighting and remained tense Thursday, an AFP correspondent reported.
Both sides have dug trenches in the city and its environs as army tanks deployed across the area.
In early February, they seized parts of Amran province in fighting with local tribes that killed more than 150 people.
In a separate incident on Thursday, two unknown gunmen shot and Saudi soldiers patrolling Saudi’s southern border with Yemen.
The border between the two Gulf countries is frequently crossed by smugglers, radical fighters, African refugees, as well as economic migrants. Saudi has long been constructing a border barrier, aimed at stemming the exchange but frequent bouts of violence still flare up.