By Nasser Arrabyee/22/04/2010
A Yemeni official accused Thursday Al Houthi rebels of not wanting to implement the six conditions they previously accepted for ending the war in Sa’ada north of the country.
“Al Houthi rebels are still positioning in the mountains and they sometimes block sub-roads between villages causing provocation of people,” said Mohammed Al Emad, deputy governor of Sa’ada Thursday.
“They still ask people to pay money to them as Zakat, and build positions in the public roads,” Al Emad said.
The official denied clashes reportedly happened between the security forces and Al Houthi rebels in Al Makash area around the Sa’ada city on Wednesday.
Al Houthi rebels, on their part, seem to be unwilling to implement the conditions which include their going down from the mountains and handing over the weapons, before the government meets some certain demands of theirs.
“The government did not release the detainees, did not pay the salaries of the employees, did not return the fired employees to their jobs, did not reconstruct Sa’ada,” said Al Houthi rebels in a statement sent to media.
Earlier on Thursday Reuters said three people were killed when a gunfight broke out in northern Yemen, rebels and tribal sources said on Thursday, in the latest outbreak of violence that threatens to undermine a two-month-old truce.
Yemen's government agreed a truce with Shi'ite Muslim rebels led by Abdel Malek al-Houthi in February to halt a war that has raged on and off since 2004 and displaced 250,000 people.
The ceasefire has largely held, but unrest has risen in recent weeks, raising fears of growing instability in a country that neighbours the world's biggest oil exporters and sits on the strategic Bab al-Mandeb shipping channel.
Rebels and tribal sources gave conflicting accounts of Thursday's clash, highlighting the confusion that has long surrounded the conflict in the Saada area of north Yemen.
"The Houthis opened fire on a position of the central security forces, who responded in kind," a Yemeni tribal source said of the gunbattle, adding that three rebels were killed.
The rebels denied involvement, saying it was tribal gunmen who had clashed with security forces after they tried to shake them down for money at a checkpoint in Saada on Wednesday.
The rebels, on their website, said the three dead were civilians caught in the crossfire. A government official denied any violence had taken place at all.
But several people were wounded in a separate clash between Houthi rebels and pro-government fighters and dozens of pro-rebel gunmen held a peaceful protest to complain that Sanaa was not serious about ending the conflict.
Yemen jumped to the forefront of Western security concerns after al Qaeda's Yemen-based regional arm claimed responsibility for an attempted attack on a U.S.-bound plane in December.
Western governments and Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda is exploiting instability in Yemen to use the Arabian peninsula state as a base for attacks in the region and beyond.
Yemen's allies want Sanaa to quell its domestic conflicts to turn its focus and resources to the battle against al Qaeda.
But previous ceasefires have not lasted and analysts say more trust must be built between the sides for this one to hold.
The government freed scores of Shi'ite prisoners this month to cement the truce after rebels freed 170 soldiers and pro-government tribal fighters in March. But the rebels complain that hundreds more from their ranks are still being held.
"The government is not serious about the peace process because it has not freed the prisoners or released the salaries of civil servants or started rebuilding what was destroyed in the war," one rebel official in the northern Jawf region said.
Sanaa says the rebels have violated the truce but Houthi's followers have denied involvement in any of the recent violence.
"These acts hinder the peace, but we can overcome it. But if the Houthis continue with violations they will bear the responsibility," a government official told Reuters.