SAN’A, Yemen (AP) – Yemen has summoned back its ambassadors to Libya and Iran, after the ruling Yemeni party accused Tripoli and Tehran of funding Shiite rebels in a northern Yemeni region, a senior party official said Friday.
Meanwhile, a week of deadly clashes between the Shiite rebels led by Abdel-Malek al-Hawthi in the northern Saada province, 180 kilometers (112 miles) north of the capital, San’a, and government troops, claimed the lives of 150 people, mostly young men, according to an army official.
The clashes are marked by government troop raids of Saada villages, including artillery bombardment, helicopter and tank attacks, while the rebels respond by guerrilla-style fighting.
The violence has claimed about 3,500 lives since it erupted in February. Tribal leaders in the region say more than 30,000 residents have been displaced by the fighting. The military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the press, said the past week witnessed some of the most fierce battles between rebels and government troops.
A senior official of the ruling National Congress party said that Yemeni ambassadors in Libya and Iran were summoned for “consultations,” after Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh met with party leaders Thursday.
The summons followed Saleh’s accusations that Libya and Iran were involved in sending weapons and money to the rebels, said the official.
The ruling party’s has posted a statement on its Web site, denouncing attempts by “some outside parties and those standing by their sides in the country,” to interfere in the country’s internal affairs.
“Its unacceptable, and such (meddling) must be confronted to preserve the national supreme interest, security and stability,” the statement posted Thursday read.
Al-Hawthi has in the past denied allegations that his group, known as the Young Faithful Believers, received funds from the predominantly Shiite Iran, or Libya.
Yemen’s Shiite rebellion began in June 2004 when cleric Hussein Badr Eddin al-Hawthi, killed in clashes later that year and the brother of the current leader, ordered his followers to take up arms against the government. The government accused him of sedition, forming an illegal armed group and inciting anti-American sentiment.