Fighting between Shi’ite Houthi rebels and Sunni Salafis in northern Yemen has killed more than 120 and a government official in charge of enforcing a ceasefire accused the Houthis of breaking the truce, a newspaper said on Sunday.
The latest round of fighting between the Houthis and Salafis has added to the challenges facing U.S. allied Yemen, already grappling with a southern separatist movement and an insurgency by Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda.
Amin al-Hemyari, head of government observers monitoring a ceasefire reached last month, said the death toll among Salafis in the town of Damaj had risen to more than 120, with dozens wounded, the government-run al-Thawra newspaper said.
He said no casualty figures were available for the Houthis.
Clashes started after Houthi rebels, who control most of Saada province, accused the Salafis of massing thousands of fighters, including foreigners, in a religious school in Damaj with the aim of attacking them.
The Salafis say the foreigners are religious students who have traveled to study Islamic theology at the Dar al-Hadith academy, established in the 1980s.
Al-Thawra also quoted the head of a presidential committee tasked with ending the fighting as saying Houthi fighters had seized two government soldiers monitoring the truce on Saturday on charges of delivering guns and ammunition to the Salafis.
“Shooting with light weapons has not stopped throughout the past few days,” al-Thawra quoted the committee head, Yehia Abuesbaa, as saying, adding the situation in Damaj was tragic, with bodies lying in the streets and residents suffering food shortages.
A Houthi spokesman was unavailable to comment on the report.
Abuesbaa also urged the leader of the Houthis, Abdulmalek al-Houthi, to enforce last month’s truce, al-Thawra said.