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Yemen rebels withdrawing from positions near capital — official

By AFP - Mar 18,2014 - Last updated at Mar 18,2014

SANAA — Shiite rebels have begun withdrawing from positions they seized near the Yemeni capital under a truce agreed with armed tribesmen allied with the influential Sunni Al Islah (reform) Party, officials say.

But some rebel fighters, known as Ansarullah or Huthis, are refusing to evacuate positions they won after months of deadly battles despite an ultimatum by the army, tribal and military sources say.

The army meanwhile has deployed to prevent those who have left from returning to their positions, the military says.

President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi and Yemen’s main parties agreed last month to transform the unrest-riven country into a six-region federation as part of a political transition.

The rebels, whose northern region lacks any significant resources or access to the coast, believe the agreement will divide Yemen into rich and poor regions and have been trying to enlarge their zone of influence by pushing out from the mountains to areas closer to Sanaa.

As they advanced they seized areas in the northern province of Omran, leaving more than 150 people dead and overrunning the home base of the Al Ahmar clan which heads the powerful Hashid tribal confederation.

They then advanced to areas located only 15 kilometres from the capital.

Military sources said their objective was to capture Omran city and, from there, lay siege to Sanaa.

Their advance however was halted when the army and tribesmen joined forces and the rebels last week signed a truce with the tribesmen.

However implementation of the truce, which commits them to a ceasefire and to withdrawing their fighters from positions near Sanaa, has been slow.

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