Fighters from a Yemeni Shia rebel group have taken control of a northwestern city where they have been fighting for weeks with conservative Sunnis from one of the country’s largest tribes, government and military officials have said.
The officials said the rebels seized control of the city of Amran, about 70km north of the capital Sanaa, on Tuesday, deploying fighters and vehicles at government offices, banks and shops.
Witnesses said fighters from the Hashid tribal confederation, one of Yemen’s largest, allied with the country’s Muslim Brotherhood group, the Islah party, were nowhere to be seen in the city.
During weeks of fighting, the tribesmen were backed by a local army unit. But the officials and witnesses said the rebel fighters did not storm or take over the military camps in the city.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.
The Shia Houthis were backed by other local tribes in Amran province, including disgruntled members of the Hashid and members of another large tribal confederation, Bakil.
Mohammed Abdul-Salam, a spokesman for the Houthi rebels, said his group had no intention of replacing the government in the city, adding that it was only fighting what he called an extremist group.
Bodies littered ground
Many people have been killed during the fighting, with the Yemeni Red Crescent estimating that 15,000 families have fled the violence.
Witnesses said bodies littered the ground on Tuesday, following days of fighting over control of the city.
There has so far been no official statement of the number of casualties.
Tribal leader Khaled al-Haidari, a member of the Bakil tribal confederation, said the city of Amran was celebrating the defeat of the Hashid fighters.
“Amran will celebrate today the fall of the corrupt tyrants,” he said, adding that for years the province’s dominant Hashid clan had been plundering its resources.
There was no immediate comment from the Hashid or the central government in Sanaa.