Shi'ite rebels step up attacks in Yemen, down government MiG

Wednesday, March 23, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

CAIRO Iranian-backed Shi'ites have resumed their revolt amid growing unrest in Yemen.

At least 20 people were killed in fighting between the Yemen Army and Shi'ite rebels in the bloodiest battle in months. The Shi'ite fighters, who belong to the Iranian-backed Believing Youth movement, assaulted a key military installation in the Jawf province.

At one point, the Yemen Air Force sent a Russian-origin MiG fighter-jet to bomb the Shi'ites. But the aircraft was downed by Shi'ite gunners, an assertion acknowledged by the Yemeni military.

"The Houthis [Shi'ite fighters] have been rearmed and trained for what could be a new offensive to take advantage of weakness of the regime," an Arab diplomat said.

The diplomat said the Shi'ites, named after their founder Hussein Badr Al Houthi, were employing mortars, artillery and armored vehicles. He said the Shi'ite force overran and captured the military base at the entrance to Jawf on March 20.

This marked the heaviest fighting between the Shi'ites and the government in 2011. Arab diplomats said the Shi'ite revolt was being equipped and trained by Iranian elements, particularly Hizbullah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

In February 2010, the Believing Youth movement reached a ceasefire accord with the Saleh regime. But the two sides have occasionally battled in northern Yemen amid accusations that each was violating the agreement.

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