SANAA, Nov 30 (Reuters) - At least 26 people were wounded on Wednesday when Shi’ite rebels in northern Yemen shelled Salafi Sunni Islamists, a spokesman for the Salafis said, in the latest round of fighting between the two sides.
The bloodshed on the border with oil giant Saudi Arabia is just one of the internal conflicts threatening a plan to stave off civil war and hold an election after President Ali Abdullah Saleh bowed to 10 months of protests demanding he step down.
It comes as the new prime minister attempts to form a government, in line with the deal brokered by Yemen’s wealthier Gulf neighbours under which Saleh agreed to step aside after a 33-year rule that also saw a civil war in the country’s south.
An official of the Salafis — Sunnis who espouse a puritanical creed with followers in Saudi Arabia — said Houthi fighters attacked his side early on Wednesday in Damaj, 150 km (90 miles) north of the capital Sanaa.
The official, Abu Ismail, spoke by telephone with explosions audible in the background, and said several students of the Dar al-Hadith Sunni religious school affiliated with the Salafis had been injured in the fighting.
The Houthis, members of the Zaidi branch of Shi’ism who draw their name from a tribal leader, effectively control the northern Saada province and are deeply wary of Saudi Arabia’s promotion of Salafi creeds that class Shi’ites as heretics.
Saleh’s forces struggled to crush the Houthi rebellion — which Saudi forces also intervened against militarily — before a ceasefire last year. (Joseph Logan)