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Rebels, tribesmen battle for control of key Yemeni region

By Hakim Almasmari, CNN
updated 1:37 AM EST, Sat February 1, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Shiite militants are battling Sunni tribesmen in northern Yemen
  • At least 42 people died and dozens more were injured in fighting, officials say
  • Cease-fire negotiations are set to resume on Sunday

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) -- Rebels battling for control of northern Yemen clashed against tribesmen on Friday, leaving dozens dead in fighting just miles from the country's capital, officials told CNN.

At least 42 people were killed and more than a dozen injured in clashes between Houthi Shiite militants and fighters from the Sunni Hashid tribe in the Amran province, which is seen as a linchpin to controlling the region, according to two security officials and a local tribal leader.

The reports of fighting come as cease-fire negotiations are under way to put an end to the fighting that has plagued Yemen since late last year, spurred in part by a power vacuum left by the departure of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Tensions between the rebel Houthis and the Hashid, which includes Sunni tribesmen and conservative Islamic Salafists, began to rise last October, when the Houthis blamed the Hashid for standing behind the killing of one of its members.

Earlier this month, President Abdurabu Hadi helped negotiate a short-lived truce. Cease-fire negotiations were set to resume with both sides on Sunday, according to officials.

There were countering claims by the two sides about who had gained ground in the fighting.

The Hashid tribe claimed victory over the Houthis in the Amran province towns of Khaiwan and Dannan, Fawzy al-Jaradi, a tribal spokesman said.

But the Houthis denied the claim, with the group's spokesman Mohammed AbdulSalam claiming their fighters gained territory.

Meanwhile, at least 15 Yemeni soldiers were killed and three injured Friday when masked gunmen attacked a military post in the Yemeni province of Hadramout, three senior security officials told CNN.

Further details about the attack, including who was behind it, weren't immediately available.

Yemen is home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, believed by many analysts to be the most dangerous affiliate of the terror network.

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