20 killed in sectarian clashes in Yemen
AFP SANAA TWENTY gunmen were killed on Thursday in clashes between Zaidi Shiite rebels and Sunni Salafist gunmen in northern Yemen, a security official said. Clashes erupted in the morning in the northwestern Hajjah province between rebel gunmen, known as Huthis, and Sunni extremists, the local official said. The official said the gunfight took place in the city of Mustaba, close to the Red Sea port city of Midi, at the border with Saudi Arabia.
Other clashes erupted between the Sunni Waela tribe and Shiite rebels in the province of Saada, the stronghold of the rebels.
Fighting between the Sunni fundamentalists and the Huthi rebels had raged over the past months in the northern town of Dammaj, south of Saada, where a Salafist Islamic teaching school was besieged by Huthi rebels.
At least 71 people were killed in clashes that erupted in mid-October, a spokesman for the Dar al-Hadith school claimed in late December.
The school trains Sunni preachers and believes in the strictest and most draconian interpretations of Islam.
In 2004, Zaidi Shiites, who regularly complain of inequality and marginalisation by the central government, rebelled against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime.
Thousands of Yemenis were killed before a ceasefire was declared in February 2010.
Earlier thousands of Yemenis demonstrated on Thursday in several cities to voice their rejection of a Gulf Arab deal to grant President Ali Abdullah Saleh immunity from prosecution, witnesses said. In the capital Sanaa, protesters marched from Change Square, the focal point of almost a year of anti-Saleh demonstrations, through Al- Siteen street, an AFP correspondent reported.
“No immunity, no guarantee to Saleh and his aides,” they chanted. “Any immunity offered is rejected by our people.” Other protests were held in major cities across the country — Taez, Ibb and Hudaydah — rejecting the immunity law for Saleh and his aides. The law was drafted on Sunday by the transitional government that was formed after Saleh signed a Gulf plan easing him out of office by the end of February. Protesters want those accused of killing demonstrators to face justice.
Parliament has yet to convene to ratify the law.
UN envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar, a key mediator throughout the crisis, arrived in Sanaa on Thursday and met Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi — who will be elected to replace Saleh next month — state news agency Saba reported.
“The UN Security Council will hold a meeting on January 25 in which I will present a report on what has been implemented from the Security Council resolution and the roadmap,” Saba quoted Benomar as saying.