Yemeni rebels agree to truce with pro-government tribes

Published Thursday, February 6, 2014

Yemeni rebels clashed with pro-government tribes close to the capital on before agreeing to a truce on Thursday, tribal sources said.

The Huthi rebels have attempted to expand their hoped-for autonomous unit in a promised federal Yemen, but they were met with resistance from tribes loyal to the historic leading family of the huge Hashid confederation and its ally Islah party.

Clashes erupted late Wednesday in the Arhab district, 35 kilometers north of the capital and close to Sanaa International Airport, shattering a fledgling truce, a tribal chief told AFP.

Both sides have accused the other of breaking the truce.

"The truce that was agreed on Saturday between the Huthis and the tribes of Arhab has collapsed due to a broad offensive by the Huthis," the tribal chief said, asking not to be identified.

But in a statement on their website, the rebels accused Islah party militia of "breaching the agreement and rejecting all forms of mediation" by launching an attack on the Zu Sulaiman area north of Sanaa "with all kinds of weapons."

The rebels also accused Islah gunmen of attacking a convoy of negotiators sent to the area by President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi last week and of killing a number of their guards.

The mediators managed to broker a halt to the fighting early on Thursday and were working on cementing the truce, tribal sources said.

The rebels succeeded in agreeing truces with many Hashid tribes over the past week, taking advantage of a deep rift within the confederation between its historic leader Sadeq al-Ahmar and tribes loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The al-Ahmar sided with protests that forced Saleh to step down in February 2012 after 33 years in power.

The UN Security Council has been mulling sanctions against Saleh regime figures suspected of undermining the UN-backed transition, diplomats at the United Nations said late last month.

The Huthis rose up against Saleh's government in 2004 and have fought an on-off conflict in the far north ever since. The ousted strongman now stands accused of throwing his support behind the rebels.

Hadi, who replaced Saleh under the UN-backed transition deal, has pledged that Yemen will adopt a federal constitution in a bid to address regional grievances that have fueled violence across the Arab world's poorest country.

But at a ceremony last month to mark the conclusion of a troubled 10-month national dialogue, he put off any decision on the thorny issue of how many component units the federation will have, leaving it to a special commission to decide.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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