Three killed in Yemen clashes, straining truce

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Reuters: Yemen’s central government agreed a truce in February to halt the northern war, which has raged on and off since 2004. But sporadic violence has swelled in recent weeks, often involving tribesmen who had fought alongside the state during the northern conflict.

The Interior Ministry said the rebels had opened fire on members of the Ben Aziz tribe, killing three tribesmen and wounding three others including a passerby.

Yemen, struggling to stabilize a fractious country, has come under international pressure to quell domestic conflicts in order to focus on quashing al Qaeda elsewhere in the Arabian peninsula state.

A failed December attack on a U.S.-bound plane sparked concerns of an al Qaeda resurgence in Yemen where its regional arm is based. Those concerns were exacerbated by a suicide bomb attack that targeted but failed to kill Britain’s ambassador to Yemen on Monday.

The Shi’ite rebels, who complain of discrimination by the government, said they attacked the Ben Aziz tribesmen in response to an earlier assault on the same day when the tribesmen opened fire on a market and wounded three people.

That attack, according to a local official, was in retaliation for a tribe member’s killing last week that they blamed on the rebels.

The rebels said on their website that the tribe had also cut the main road between their stronghold in Saada and the capital Sanaa.

Analysts say Yemen’s central government has been more concerned with curbing its Shi’ite rebellion in the north and stifling a burgeoning secessionist movement in the south than it has been with tackling the global militant group.

Western governments and Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda will use Yemen, neighbor to the top oil exporter, for further attacks in the region and beyond.