Fighting between Yemeni tribesmen and Houthi rebels killed at least 60 people in the north of the country on Friday, while at least 15 soldiers were killed by suspected al-Qaeda militants in the south, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.
Pro-government Hashid tribes battled the Houthi rebels north of the Yemeni capital in the Arhab region just 40 kilometers north of Sanaa, where tribesmen said they had recaptured several areas.
The rebels have been pushing out from their stronghold in the mountains of the far north to other areas nearer the capital, where most of the population follow the Zaidi branch of Shiite Islam, to lay a stake to their own autonomous unit in a promised federal Yemen, political sources say.
But their fighters, known as the Houthis from the name of the rebels’ leading family, have faced stiff resistance from pro-government Zaidi tribes, as well as from Sunni hardliners from elsewhere in Yemen who have established religious schools in parts of the north, according to AFP.
Elsewhere in Yemen, at least 15 soldiers were killed and four wounded by suspected al-Qaeda militants in an attack on an army checkpoint in southeastern Yemen on Friday, an army official said.
The soldiers were ambushed as they were having lunch in a desert area near the city of Shibam, in the eastern province of Hadramout, residents said. The army official said the gunmen were likely to be al Qaeda militants.
State news agency Saba put the death toll at 18 soldiers in what it described as "a cowardly terrorist act" in Shibam.
Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, is struggling to restore state authority after long-serving President Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to step down in 2011.
Security in Yemen is closely watched by Western and Gulf Arab countries because of its proximity to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and the presence there of an al Qaeda branch that has plotted bomb attacks against international airlines.
Hadramout, a center of Yemen's modest oil production, has been hit by sporadic fighting between government forces and a big tribal confederation, after a senior tribesman was killed in a shootout at an army checkpoint in December.
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