World Bulletin / News Desk
Yemeni soldiers traded gunfire with Shi'ite Muslim rebels near a military base at the southern entrance to the capital Sanaa on Tuesday, residents said, hours after soldiers killed at least four Shi'ite protesters outside the cabinet building.
A civilian was killed in the gun battle and both soldiers and rebels suffered several injuries, government sources said.
The fighting now threatens to bring into the capital a rebellion by Shi'ite Houthi tribespeople that until now been confined to the north.
Earlier, some of the Houthi activists who have been staging protests in Sanaa for weeks had tried to force their way into the cabinet building.
Medical sources said four protesters had been killed.
A security source told the state news agency Saba that protesters had shot at security personnel guarding the cabinet building and nearby state radio, but denied that the security forces had fired live bullets back.
Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam said the demonstrators had been unarmed, adding: "The authorities want the people to realise that peaceful options aren't acceptable ... and are no use in correcting the situation."
The Houthis said dozens of activists had been wounded.
Protesters have been blocking the main road to Sanaa's airport and holding sit-ins for weeks at ministries in an attempt to oust the government and restore fuel subsidies.
The Houthis accuse the government of the desperately poor southern Arabian country of corruption, while critics say the Houthis are trying to grab power and carve out a semi-independent state for themselves in the north - something they deny.
While activists have been demonstrating in the capital, armed rebels in the northerly al-Jawf province have been fighting government-allied tribes backed by air strikes over the last three days.
Both sides vowed defiance on Monday, as the International Crisis Group think tank said Yemen's political transition was at "a crossroads more dangerous than any since 2011," when mass protests ousted veteran autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh and security around the country sharply deteriorated.
"The Houthi group may not and cannot continue its escalation and its disturbance of the public tranquillity and the undermining of security and stability in the capital," said Salah's successor, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Houthi leader Abdel Malik al-Houthi said: "We vow to continue in our position and dismiss any questioning of our intentions. The solution is to respond definitively to the popular demands, and we are serious in these demands."
FIGHTING IN JAWF
Meanwhile, airstrikes by the Yemeni air force over the past two days left around 100 militants from the Houthi group dead in the northern Al-Jawf province, a reliable security source said Tuesday.
The raids targeted sites held by Houthi militants in Al-Gheil directorate, the source, who asked not to be named, told Anadolu Agency.
The Houthi group is yet to comment on the claim. However, the group usually declines to disclose the number of causalities within its ranks.
The northern province of Al-Jawf has recently turned into a battleground between the army and allied tribesmen on one hand and Houthi militants on the other. Dozens from both sides have been killed in the fighting.
Violence first erupted in the flashpoint province in April, resulting in casualties on both sides.
A few weeks ago, a presidential mediation committee succeeded in brokering a temporary ceasefire between the warring camps – but this proved short-lived.
Al-Jawf is strategically important in that it is located near Yemen's eastern Maarib province, the center of the country's oil production.
The group has been long accused by local tribes of attempting to seize control of their territory in the north of the country.
Earlier confrontations in the country's north between the Houthis and Yemeni army troops have left hundreds dead and injured on both sides.
Separately, militants detonated a car bomb at an army checkpoint in the eastern Hadramawt province, setting off a firefight in which three soldiers and 10 militants were killed, a local security source said.
Yemen has been dogged by turmoil since pro-democracy protests forced autocratic president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down in 2012 after 33 years in power.Last Mod: 09 Eylül 2014, 23:10