SANAA (Reuters) - Unidentified assailants killed a Yemeni tribal chief allied with Shi‘ite Muslim Houthi militias and at least four other people in an ambush on Tuesday, tribal sources said.
No one claimed responsibility for the ambush on Sheikh Mohammed Abdel-Qader in al-Bayda province some 270 km (170 miles) southeast of the capital Sanaa.
However, Sunni Muslim militants, including the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda, often target the Houthis and their allies, who now control large swathes of the impoverished Arabian peninsula nation.
Three of the tribal chief’s sons were among the dead in Tuesday’s ambush, the sources said. The attackers fled the scene after the attack.
Some Yemeni news websites said Sheikh Abel-Qader was a leader of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress party and that only two of his sons had died. Saleh, who was forced to step down after mass protests in 2011, has been accused by the United Nations Security Council of working with the Houthis to undermine Yemen’s stability.
On Monday a large blast damaged a building used by the Houthi militia in Sanaa but there were no fatalities.
Turmoil in Yemen deepened in September after the Houthis seized control of Sanaa and expanded into central and western parts of the country, leading to direct fighting between them and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in some areas.
A series of bomb attacks by AQAP in recent weeks has struck Houthi targets, including a guesthouse in which four people were killed on Sunday and a street celebration last Wednesday in which 26 were killed.
Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Gareth Jones