At least 30 gunmen were killed on Tuesday in the ongoing fighting between a Shiite rebel group and Sunni fundamentalists in Yemen’s northwest restive province of Hajja, Yemeni officials said, highlighting fragile security situation less than two weeks ahead of presidential elections.
“The clashes, which have already taken place in Hajja’s districts of Kishir, Washa and Mashanna, expanded to Mastaba district, claiming the lives of nearly 20 Shiite rebels and 10 Sunni gunmen during Tuesday’s sectarian battles,” a provincial security official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
He said dozens from each side were seriously wounded by heavy weapons used during the fighting. The escalation came following the failure of several attempts by tribal mediators to cease fire. Hundreds of villagers have fled their homes to remote regions. The sectarian conflict began nearly four months ago when religious-related dispute led the Shiite group to lay siege to Damaj, a small Sunni-held town in the northern province of Saada.
The fighting spread recently from Saada to Hajja, as well as several villages in Amran province, about 50 km north of the capital Sanaa. On Aug. 26, 2010, the Yemeni government and the Shiite group signed an agreement in Doha, Qatar, to cement a fragile cease-fire to end the on-and-off war since 2004, but clashes with local tribesmen are still rocking the region.