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Tue 3 Jun 2014 12:16 PM

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At least 120 killed in Yemen fighting between Houthi rebels, government forces – official

Yemeni planes shelled positions held by Houthi fighters in Omran province and army forces clashed with the rebels

At least 120 killed in Yemen fighting between Houthi rebels, government forces – official
(photo for illustrative purpose only) Getty Images

At least 120 people were killed in northern Yemen
on Monday in fighting between Shi'ite Muslim Houthi rebels and government
forces before a ceasefire was agreed, a Yemeni official said on Tuesday.

Ahmed Al Bekry, deputy governor of Omran province,
said that Yemeni war planes bombed positions held there by Houthi fighters and
army forces clashed with the rebels, killing around 100 of them. He said about
20 government soldiers were killed as well.

He said fighting ended by Monday evening after the
sides agreed a ceasefire and no clashes were reported on Tuesday.

"Things are calm (today) after mediation
efforts led by the interior minister," Bekry told Reuters, adding Yemeni
air force action on Monday was one of the main reasons for the Houthis' assent
to a truce.

Yemen has been in turmoil since 2011, when mass protests
forced long-ruling president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

As well as the fighting in Omran, where the Shi'ite
tribal militia is trying to cement its control over the northern highlands,
Yemen is facing a threat from al Qaeda and a challenge from separatists in the
south.

Clashes have repeatedly erupted in the past months
between government troops and Houthis - named after the Shi'ite tribe of its
leaders - as Sanaa struggles to restore nationwide control.

The Houthis blame elements of the Sunni Muslim
Islah party within government forces and in the Omran local administration for
the fighting.

Government officials say the Houthis, who have
repeatedly fought government forces since 2004, are trying to tighten their
grip on the north before next year's election and as Yemen eyes moves towards a
federal-style devolution of power to regions.