Yemen: Rebel stronghold seized

Yemeni forces have ended a major offensive against a fugitive anti-US cleric but the hunt is still on for him and a handful of his followers.

    Al-Huthi is accused of setting up unlicensed religious centres

    Security sources said on Friday that

    troops seized the last stronghold of Husain

    al-Huthi in the mountainous Saada province on Thursday after a month of fighting.

    They said they are

    now conducting house-to-house searches for him.

    More than 200 rebels and troops have been killed in fierce

    clashes in Saada, 240km north of the capital Sanaa,

    since the government launched a crackdown on al-Huthi on 20 June.

    On Thursday, at least 40 people were killed in renewed

    fighting that erupted after efforts to mediate an end to the

    standoff failed.

    Motives questioned

    Government sources say hundreds of al-Huthi supporters have been wounded or arrested or have surrendered to authorities in Saada.

    The Yemeni Government accuses al-Huthi, leader of the Believing

    Youth group and a Zaidi Shia Muslim sect, of setting up unlicensed

    religious centres and of forming an armed group which has staged

    violent protests against the United States and Israel.

    Government forces have been on
    the trail of al-Huthi for months

    It has offered a $54,000 reward for his capture.

    However, critics of the army offensive say the accusations levelled against al-Huthi do not justify the number of poeple killed in the hunt for him.

    Others say the Yemeni government is trying to curry favour with the US by eliminating Islamist opposition groups.

    Anti-US sentiment is running high in Yemen

    over the presence of US troops in Iraq and the

    Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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