Yemen: Rebel preacher surrounded

Yemeni government forces say they have tightened the security dragnet around a rebel Muslim preacher and his supporters in the country's rugged northern mountains.

    Around 400 people have died in the ongoing army operation

    The army's

    deputy chief of staff, Major General Ali Muhammad


    said on Thursday that

    Shaikh Husayn Badr al-Din al-Huthi "and whoever is still with

    him are living their last breath

    " in the Maran mountains.

    "Al-Huthi and a group of his followers have dispersed in homes in

    Jalil, Al-Jumaima and Al-Khirb in an attempt to hide," he was quoted

    as saying by the official news agency SABA.

    "Army and security forces are now tracking them down in their

    hiding places until they are caught and brought to justice," he added


    Salah said food and medicine were being distributed to residents

    of the Maran region, which had "returned to calm and stability after

    the liquidation there of rebel elements".

    President Ali Abd Allah Salih, also quoted by SABA, said the army

    had "suffered a number of martyred and wounded for the sake of the

    security and stability of the nation".

    Reward offered

    Al-Huthi is accused of setting up
    unlicensed religious centres

    Salih, who claimed that al-Huthi "only represents himself", said

    the aim of the fresh military assault launched since 3 August


    crush al-Huthi's rebellion was "to end extremism".

    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.

    It has offered a $55,000 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.

    Death toll

    President Salih's opponents say
    he is trying to impress the US

    The latest army assault has left at least 89 dead, including 47 soldiers and

    42 rebels, and about 106 wounded


    Government forces are still facing resistance in several

    villages in the Maran mountains which have been overrun by the

    regular army since the start of the onslaught, military sources


    The onslaught came after the failure of efforts to broker the

    surrender of al-Huthi and his estimated 3000 armed supporters.

    The clashes between the army and al-Huthi's supporters have left a

    total of nearly 400 people dead since the rebellion erupted on 18 June.

    The full toll could be higher as the army has given few details of

    its own losses.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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