Saudi says 73 troops killed in south Yemen attacks

Saudi Arabia said at least 73 of its troops had been killed in war against Yemeni fighters since November, but the war was nearly over.

Saudi says 73 troops killed in south Yemen attacks

Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday at least 73 of its troops had been killed in war against Yemeni fighters since November, but the war was nearly over.

"Major operations in the border area have almost entirely ended. There are still incursions, and the use of snipers but we are constantly prepared to confront them," Prince Khaled bin Sultan, assistant minister of defence, said on state television.

"There were 73 martyrs and 26 missing," he said, adding that 12 of the missing were believed to be dead but their bodies had not been recovered.

Saudi Arabia launched its assault against Yemen's southerner fighters, known as Houthis, in the area near its border with Yemen last month after the insurgents staged a cross-border incursion that killed two Saudi border guards.

The rebels said on their website on Tuesday that Saudi air attacks against their positions in northern Yemen had continued, with 39 raids by fighter planes and helicopters launched since late Monday.

The West and Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda will take advantage of the Yemeni government's focus on the Shi'ite rebellion in the north and rising secessionist sentiment in the south to spread its operations to the kingdom, the world's top oil exporter.

The Houthis belong to the Zaidi sect of minority Shi'ite Islam, and complain of social, economic and religious marginalisation by the Yemeni government. Both sides deny their aims are sectarian.

Saudi media frequently mention an al Qaeda presence among the Houthis and Yemen sees Iran's hand behind the rebels. Iran denies involvement and has called for Yemen's government to end the fighting through negotiations.

Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally which sees itself as the guardian of Sunni Islam, has been at odds with Shi'ite Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Reuters
Last Mod: 23 Aralık 2009, 10:46
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