Yemeni troops kill Shiite rebel leader, dozens dead

Sanaa, Yemen - Yemeni security forces have killed a Shiite rebel leader in renewed clashes in the north of the mainly Sunni Muslim Arab country, in which dozens of troops and rebels also died, government sources said yesterday. Hussein Kamza, who led rebels in the northern Amran province loyal to Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi of the Houthi tribal group, was killed during fighting on Sunday, a government official said.

Clashes continued yesterday, mainly in Saada province in the north of the country, where al-Houthi has his headquarters, officials said. Saada is also where the rebels kidnapped 15 local aid workers last week, according to the province's governor. Fighting between Yemeni troops backed by fighter aircraft and Shiite rebels has killed dozens on both sides since the government launched a wide offensive against the rebels earlier this month after weeks of skirmishes. Yemen on Thursday announced conditions for

a ceasefire to end its offensive, but the rebels rejected the truce offer and denied holding any kidnapped civilians.

Officials say the rebels want to restore a form of clerical rule prevalent in Yemen until the 1960s. The rebels say they are defending their villages against government oppression. Yemen, one of the poorest Arab countries, has been battling a Shiite rebellion, rising secessionist sentiment in the south and a wave of Al-Qaeda attacks. Al-Qaeda's wing in Yemen named a new leader this year and said it would expand the scope of its attacks to all Gulf Arab states, including top world oil exporter Saudi Arabia.

In July 2008, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah said four years of intermittent fighting against the rebels had ended and dialogue should replace combat. Despite attempts to start talks, sporadic fighting continued and intensified in recent weeks. The rebels belong to the Shiite Zaydi sect and want Zaydi schools in their area. They also oppose the government's alliance with the United States, and say they are defending their villages against government oppression.

A delegation of US senators led by John McCain and the president of Yemen discussed yesterday ways to help the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country battle the threat from Al-Qaeda. The state SABA news agency said the American team and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh focused on "bilateral issues and fields of joint cooperation." No details immediately emerged from the meeting, but McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan confirmed earlier that the talks would include counterterrorism cooperation and Guantan

amo detainees.

Yemen has been a professed US ally in the fight against terrorism but President Barack Obama has hesitated to send home the nearly 100 Yemeni inmates held at Guantanamo Bay prison because of Yemen's history of either releasing extremists or allowing them to escape from prison. The country, which is the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, has been the site of numerous high-profile, Al-Qaeda-linked attacks, including the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in the Gulf of Aden, which killed 17 American sailors.