Yemen rebels deny mounting sniper attacks in Saudi

Mon Feb 1, 2010 2:19pm EST
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By Mohammed Ghobari

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni Shi'ite rebels denied on Monday their snipers were operating inside Saudi Arabia and said Saudi war planes were striking targets across the border.

Saudi Arabia has accused the insurgents of mounting sniper attacks inside its territory even after the rebels offered a ceasefire last week and pledged to withdraw from the kingdom. Riyadh last week declared victory over the rebels.

"We stress that there was no exchange of fire with the Saudi army, nor is there a presence of snipers from any side," the rebels said in a statement.

The rebels said Saudi war planes struck targets on Sunday across the Yemen-Saudi border region that was also being pounded by Yemeni forces. Yemeni soldiers had killed 20 insurgents in the same area on Sunday, state media said at the time.

Yemen's government, also battling a resurgent al Qaeda and southern separatists, has been fighting the rebels on and off since 2004. But the conflict intensified last summer when Sanaa launched an assault to quash the latest upsurge in violence.

There were renewed clashes with the rebels on Monday in the northern town of Harf Sufyan, and a senior army commander was wounded in fighting near Saada, the center of the mountainous province which is home to many of the insurgents, Yemeni officials told Reuters.

Saudi Arabia stepped into the fray in November when rebels seized some Saudi territory, prompting Riyadh to launch a military offensive. The insurgents accused Riyadh of allowing Yemeni forces to use its territory to attack the rebels.

Western powers and Saudi Arabia fear impoverished Yemen could become a failed state whose instability al Qaeda could exploit. Al Qaeda's regional wing is based in Yemen.   Continued...

<p>Saudi soldiers keep watch at Khoba, the frontline border with Yemen, January 27, 2010. REUTERS/Fahad Shadeed</p>