Shiite rebels agree to pull out of key Yemen city
Sanaa: Yemeni Shiite rebels agreed on Saturday to withdraw from Amran, seized in a push towards the capital, in a deal struck with authorities who are dispatching troops to the strategic city.
The Huthi rebels seized the northern city Tuesday, in a new challenge to the government, which is also facing an al Qaeda threat and a separatist movement in the south.
The capture of Amran, just 50 kilometres north of Sanaa, threatened a federalisation plan that was agreed in February following national talks as part of a political transition.
The rebels, also known as Ansarullah, have complained for years of marginalisation in the Sunni majority country, and say the transition plan would divide Yemen into rich and poor regions.
In February they advanced from their mountain strongholds in the remote north towards the capital, battling loyalist troops and pro-government tribesmen.
Rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdessalam told AFP today that the Huthis had struck a deal with the defence ministry to withdraw from Amran and that troops would move in later in the day.
"Our men will withdraw from Amran as soon as an army unit moves in," Abdessalam said, adding that a regiment was on its way from the northern city of Saada.
"Other military units... Will follow suit," he said.
Amran fell after four days of fierce fighting that unconfirmed reports ay killed as many as as 400 people. The Red Crescent said the violence uprooted at least 10,000 families.
The unrest triggered concern at the United Nations, where the Security Council unanimously called on the Shiite rebels to leave Amra.
A statement said the fighting impeded Yemen`s political transition, threatened to impose sanctions on those blocking it and called on all fighters to disarm.
The council demanded that "the Huthis, all armed groups and parties involved in the violence withdraw and relinquish control of Amran and hand over weapons and ammunition pillaged in Amran to the national authorities loyal to the government."
Calling on all sides to disarm and implement existing ceasefire agreements, the council also asked military units to "remain committed to their obligation of neutrality at the service of the state."
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