Sanaa: At least 60 people were killed in Yemen as clashes raged between Shiite rebels and al-Qaeda militants backed by Sunni tribesmen battling for territory in the strife-hit country, sources said today.
The rebels, known as Huthis, have been facing fierce resistance from al-Qaeda fighters and tribesmen as they seek to expand their areas of control after seizing the capital Sanaa and the Red Sea port city of Hudeida.
A suicide bomber killed 15 people today, including children, when he detonated his explosives-laden car near a rebel checkpoint in the town of Rada, south of Sanaa, witnesses and a tribal source said.
It came after heavy fighting erupted overnight in Rada, a mixed Sunni-Shiite area that has been the scene of frequent clashes.
Twenty rebels were killed in another car bombing that targeted a building where they had gathered and in subsequent clashes, tribal and security sources told AFP, adding that 12 rebels were also captured by al-Qaeda militants.
The town was rocked by powerful explosions, with rocket-propelled grenades and artillery used by both sides in several hours of clashes, security officials said.
Ten more rebels were killed during clashes today in the Anas district of Dhamar, a Shiite-populated province taken last week by the rebels, said medics and tribal sources.
Meanwhile, 15 fighters from al-Qaeda and tribesmen were killed in the Rada clashes, tribal sources said.
Al-Qaeda militants also attacked rebel positions northeast of Rada and along a road connecting the town in Baida province to neighbouring Dhamar.
Fighters backed by tribesmen also recaptured the town of Udain, in southwestern Ibb province, which they had briefly overran last week in response to the rebels advance, a tribal source said.
They then moved towards nearby Ibb city, triggering heavy clashes today with the rebels.
The Huthis have seized on chronic instability in Yemen since the 2012 ouster of long-serving autocratic president Ali Abdullah Saleh to take control of large parts of the country.
President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi's weak Sunni-led central government has failed to stop the rebels, despite a UN-brokered peace deal that was supposed to see them withdraw from the capital.