Army troops kill 25 Shia rebels in Yemen
Yemeni troops killed at least 25 rebels in the northern province of Saada where armed members of an outlawed Shia group have been battling army and police forces for more than six weeks, military sources said.
The rebel fatalities occurred after army forces bombarded mountain locations in Dukhesh and Bani Muadh areas of Saada, bordering Saudi Arabia, said a report posted on a website run by the Defence Ministry.
Saada, some 230 km north of Sana'a, has been the scene of fierce battles between the army and members of the Shia group "Believing Youth" since last December.
The report said army forces seized weapons and explosives in locations taken from the rebels in the al-Talh, Bani Muadh, Al Salim, Al al-Saifi areas.
A newspaper close to the army chief commands in Saada, said the death toll among rebels exceeded 190 people and that 360 others were captured.
Meanwhile, a medical source in Saada said at least 13 army soldiers and eight tribesmen who fought alongside the government troops were killed in skirmishes with the rebels over the past two days.
The source said among the dead was the prominent tribal chieftain Hizam al-Arjali who was leading a group of tribal volunteers backing the army in the battles with rebels.
Military officials in the capital Sana'a refused to comment on the reported casualties among troops.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said last week that all doors were closed to dialogue with the rebels after they refused to surrender.
Fierce battles renewed between the army and rebels acting under the umbrella of underground Believing Youth group late last December after authorities accused rebels of attacking military and police posts in Saada.
"They have no way now but to give themselves up to the state, lay down their weapons and abide by the law," Saleh said in remarks last Monday.
On March 7, the army said it killed at least 160 rebel fighters in two weeks of fierce fighting in Saada.
The group was first established by Shia cleric Hussein Badruddin al-Houthi in mid-2004. Hussein was killed in clashes with the army in September 2004.
Bloody confrontations between the rebels and the army have since left more than 720 government troops dead, according to the official toll. Hundreds of rebels have also been killed.
Government officials have accused the rebels, led by local Shia leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, of trying to topple the republican regime and establish an Islamic state, saying that "foreign parties" have been supporting them.
Local media reports have recently quoted government officials accusing Iran and Libya of financing the rebels. Both states have denied the charge.