Yemeni army, Houthis agree ceasefire

The ceasefire in the northern province of Amran took place after mediation backed by U.N. envoy Jaman Benomar

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As violence continues in Yemen, Sanaa and Shiite Houthi rebels reached a ceasefire deal Wednesday to end clashes in the northern province of Amran following mediation backed by U.N. envoy Jamal Benomar.

The agreement was made between government officials and representatives of Ansarullah rebels “to end violence” in Amran, Agence France-Presse reported the office of Benomar as saying.

State news agency Saba said the ceasefire agreement took effect at midday (0900 GMT).

It stipulated an end to military reinforcements from both sides, deployment of impartial military monitors, and the opening of the main road to the capital Sanaa, the agency said.

Benomar held “intensive consultations” with representatives of military leaders as well as Ansarullah, his office said in a statement.

He urged all sides to abide by all the points of the agreement “to reinstate security and stability in the region,” after dozens were killed in the clashes that flared at the end of May.

Government warplanes this week raided positions of the rebels who seized a strategic point that controls the road to Sanaa.

Houthis are suspected of trying to expand their sphere of influence as Yemen is split into six regions, pushing out from their mountain strongholds in the far north to areas closer to Sanaa.

The rebels complained Yemen would be divided into rich and poor regions under a federalization plan agreed in February following national talks as part of a political transition.

Violence continues

Meanwhile, suspected al-Qaeda gunmen killed 14 Yemeni soldiers and a civilian on Thursday in a southern province where troops have been battling the jihadists since late April, AFP reported a security official as saying.

The militants attacked a checkpoint near the Shabwa province village of Bayhan with automatic rifles, also wounding a number of soldiers, the official said.

The army has been engaged in a major ground offensive against al-Qaeda in Shabwa and neighboring Abyan province in a bid to expel it from smaller towns and villages that escaped a previous sweep in 2012.

Drone strike

The incident comes after a drone strike killed at least three suspected al-Qaeda militants in Yemen on Wednesday night, tribal sources told Reuters.

The strike targeted a vehicle in which the suspected militants were traveling in the Wadi Abida district of the central Maarib province, east of the capital Sanaa, the sources said.

Yemen is the main stronghold of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the Islamist militant group’s most active wings. The United States acknowledges using drones in Yemen but does not comment publicly on the practice.

On Thursday, Yemen’s army said that 500 al-Qaeda militants had been killed since the military launched an offensive against the group in April.

A total of 40 soldiers were also killed as a result of the military campaign against the group, Colonel Saeed al-Faquih, spokesman for the Yemeni army, told at a news conference.

(With AFP and Reuters)