Clashes in northern Yemen leave 20 dead
SANAA - A day of clashes between Shiite rebels and gunmen from the powerful Hashid tribe in northern Yemen have left 20 people dead, tribal sources said Wednesday.
Heavy fighting raged Tuesday in the towns of Wadi Khaywan and Usaimat, strongholds of the Hashid tribe in Amran province, before it receded on Wednesday as mediators made a new attempt to broker a ceasefire, a tribal source said.
"Clashes on Tuesday left 20 people dead from both sides," the source said.
He said that gunmen belonging to Hashid have "managed to retake five positions" which the Huthis had seized during previous gun battles.
Analysts have said the Huthis are trying to seize more territory in the north in anticipation of the conclusion of a national dialogue that could turn Yemen into a federation of regions.
The fighting first erupted on January 5 when Huthis tried to seize Hashid strongholds in the north.
On January 8 a presidential commission brokered a truce, but the fighting soon resumed, leaving 22 people dead in 48 hours earlier this week.
The Huthis launched the attacks against Hashid tribesmen in retaliation for the tribe's support for hardline Sunni Islamist groups fighting the Shiite Huthis in Dammaj.
The town in Saada province was besieged by the rebels since October, until Yemeni troops began to deploy there on January 11 to monitor a ceasefire between the Huthis and the Sunni Salafists.
Despite the fighting, national talks aimed at drafting a new constitution are to be concluded in a ceremony on Saturday in the capital Sanaa.
On Tuesday, gunmen in Sanaa shot dead a law professor who has been representing Shiite Huthi rebels at the thorny reconciliation talks.
Ahmed Sharafeddin was the second Huthi representative to the talks to be killed, with MP Abdulkarim Jadban shot dead in a similar attack in November.