SANAA, (Reuters) – Yemeni forces clashed with Shi’ite rebels, killing 11 in the poor Arab country where the United States and Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda will exploit instability to prepare attacks, a government source said on Friday.
The 26 September news website, quoting an unnamed government source, said Yemeni forces had destroyed a “terrorist den” in the northern Saada region on Thursday in what was described as a combing operation by security forces and military.
Rebels from the minority Shi’ite Zaidi sect in northern Yemen launched a rebellion against the government in 2004, complaining of social, economic and religious marginalisation.
The conflict drew in neighbouring Saudi Arabia in November when rebels staged a cross-border incursion into the world’s biggest oil exporter.
Yemen, which is also facing separatist sentiment in the south, was thrown into focus when the regional wing of al Qaeda said it was behind an attempt to bomb a U.S. passenger plane on Christmas Day.
The United States and Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda will exploit the instability in Yemen to turn it into a launchpad for attacks.
Thursday’s strikes destroyed a group of rebel vehicles near the town of Saada, and flames were seen rising from the area, the website said. A car carrying ammunition was destroyed. “Eleven terrorists were killed and others were wounded in widespread combing operations and strikes by military and security units on Thursday against gatherings of Houthi terrorists in a number of areas,” a government source told Reuters.
The source said several of the rebels were killed by sniper fire, while others died when a bomb exploded prematurely.