Clashes between Shiite rebels and government-allied tribesmen have killed at least 35 people and wounded 40 others in some of the fiercest fighting to hit the country in months, a Yemeni security official said Sunday.
The rebels have been battling tribesmen from Yemen’s largest tribal confederation, the Hashid, which is backed by an army unit and allied with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islah party. Hawthis are backed by supporters from smaller tribes.
The official said Sunday 15 soldiers and 20 rebels were killed in two days of fighting that began Friday in and around the city of Amran, northwest of the capital, Sanaa.
National army units fought with the tribesmen and military warplanes struck the rebels who tried to attack a government compound late Saturday, the official said. He provided the information on condition of anonymity according to his department’s policies.
Yemen, the poorest Arab nation, is facing multiple challenges. In addition to threats from an active al-Qaida offshoot, it faces a secessionist movement in the south and the Hawthi rebellion in the north. Mediation efforts and cease-fires have failed to end the unrest.
The Hawthis, who belong to the Zaydi sect, a Shiite branch, also accuse ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafis of trying to proselytize in their strongholds.
Also on Sunday, suspected al-Qaida militants attacked an army patrol, killing six soldiers in the southern province of Abyan, military and security officials said.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
Yemen is home to one of the most active branches of al-Qaida.
The government has waged repeated offensives to drive out the militants from the south, most recently this spring. The group retaliated with a series of attacks against troops and security. In June, militants carried out coordinated attacks against an airport, a military barracks and post office in the province, killing 15.