By NY Staff
Twelve people have been killed in fighting that is ongoing in northern Yemen between Huthi rebels and Islamists backed by local tribes, a tribal source said.
Huthi rebels have been battling the Sanaa government for nearly a decade in the remote Saada province.
” Twelve Huthis and two tribesmen were killed over the past three days in the clashes, which are continuing intermittently,” particularly in the Kitaf area in the north of Saada and in neighboring Amran province, the source told NY.
The source did not say when the men had died. A spokesman for the Salafis, Khaled al-Azzani, confirmed the toll to NY.
An official from the Huthi Ansarullah (Partisans of God) group, Ali al-Bakheeti, said the clashes in Amran had left dead and wounded, without elaborating.
Fighting erupted in late October in the Saada town of Dammaj, home to a Salafi mosque and Quranic school for preachers, reportedly after an attack by Houthi rebels on one of their mosques.
The Houthis, named after their late leader Abdel Malek al-Houthi, are part of the Zaidi Shia community.
They rose up in 2004 against the government of ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, accusing it of marginalizing them politically and economically.
They accuse radical Sunnis in Dammaj of turning the town center into “a real barracks for thousands of armed foreigners”, a reference to the Dar al-Hadith koranic school, where foreigners study.
Heavily armed tribes in the area have deployed forces in Saada and neighboring provinces to try to loosen the Huthis’ stranglehold on Saada.
It has not been possible to compile a precise toll for the fighting, as the region is virtually inaccessible to journalists.
Azzani told AFP on Friday that the Salafi camp had suffered “180 dead, including 23 children and four women, and 510 wounded”.
“Among the dead there are foreign students, originally from the Maghreb, Europe, France and America,” he said without giving further details.
He called the situation in Dammaj “tragic,” accusing Huthis of bombarding the town with heavy weapons.
Bakheeti, however, described the violence as a “tribal, and not a sectarian, war as it is presented by the Salafis”.