A ceasefire was holding in Yemen on Sunday after Shiite rebels agreed to lay down their arms, ending three years of fierce fighting that has killed and wounded thousands. The rebels from the Zaidi minority announced late Saturday that they would accept a government offer to halt three years of fighting in the northern mountainous Saada region near the border with Saudi Arabia.
The rebellion began in June 2004 when cleric Hussein Badr Eddin al-Huthi ordered his followers to take up arms against the Yemeni government. Al-Huthi was killed in clashes later that year. The rebels accuse the government of corruption and that it is too closely allied to the West.
A senior official in the ruling General People's Congress told AFP that government military operations against the rebels ceased by 1700 GMT on Saturday, "and no violation has so far been registered." A committee grouping various political parties is overseeing implementation of the truce, which was mediated by Qatar, the official conveyed.
"In response to the call of the president (Ali Abdullah Saleh)... we confirm our acceptance to cease violence in order to stop bloodshed," rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi said in a statement released by the government. Al-Huthi voiced "respect for the republican system (of Yemen) and adherence to the constitution and laws."
Saleh announced last month that the rebels would receive a fair trial if they surrendered.
According to the official, Huthi and other rebel leaders are to be exiled to Qatar where they will be prohibited from engaging in any political or media activities against Yemen. They will also be restricted from leaving the Gulf state without permission from the Yemeni government.
Additionally, the rebels are to surrender their weapons to the government which is to take control of the restive region.
On his part, Qatari Premier Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani hailed the Yemeni president efforts to end the rebellion. Speaking to the al-Jazeera satellite channel on Sunday, al-Thani said that the announcement of the Yemeni government and Huthi to put end for bloody clashes is a result of the meeting held in Sana'a between President Saleh and Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
Al-Thani said that President Saleh had showed keenness to end the rebellion crisis in Saada and cooperated with a Qatari mediation in this case. "It is known that president Saleh reunited Yemen, followed the democratic path and made stability and security in the country," said al-Thani.