Two soldiers, 16 rebels killed in Yemen clashes
Two soldiers and 16 rebels were killed in new clashes in Yemen's northern mountains yesterday as a government offensive entered its fourth day, a security official said.
The official said fighting had now shifted away from Saada town towards the province's southern border with neighbouring Omran, just 70km north of the capital Sanaa.
The military has deployed warplanes as well as ground troops in a bid to dislodge the rebels, the official added.
The new fighting came a day after Saada provincial Governor Hassan Mohammed Manaa vowed that the state of emergency imposed early on Tuesday would be "lifted only when the rebels have been crushed."
In comments carried by the website of the defence ministry's September 26 newspaper, Manaa accused the rebels of kidnapping 15 Red Crescent staff from a camp for people displaced by the fighting.
"They blindfolded them, beat them and insulted them," he said, charging that they had also ransacked a help centre for farmers in Anad district.
"Over the past four days, 17,000 families have been forced to flee their homes," he said, adding that the rebels had killed four leaders of the Al-Azl tribe and 15 other civilians, including women and children.
On Thursday, the government offered terms for ending its offensive but the conditions were dismissed by the rebels, who charge that it is the army and not their fighters that has been responsible for the death and suffering among civilians.
They also accuse the government of failing to respect a June 2007 ceasefire intended to end a conflict, which has left thousands dead since it first erupted in 2004.
The rebels reject the legitimacy of the current government and want to restore the Zaidi imamate overthrown in a 1962 coup.
An offshoot of Shia Islam, the Zaidis are a minority in mainly Sunni Yemen but form the majority community in the north. President Ali Abdullah Saleh is himself a Zaidi.