Sep 27, 2014 2:55 PM

Yemen's Shiite rebels agree to pull back, disarm

The Associated Press

SANAA, Yemen (AP) Shiite rebels in Yemen who overran much of the capital signed a security deal on Saturday that stipulates disarmament and withdrawal from areas they have seized in recent months.

The Shiite rebels, known as Hawthis, signed the deal as part of a comprehensive agreement brokered by the United Nations. Their political rivals, the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islah party, and other parties signed as well.

It remains to be seen whether the Hawthis will abide by the deal. They are the strongest force on the ground in the capital Sanaa, where they have deployed thousands of fighters, set up checkpoints and seized weapons from army barracks.

Even as Hawthis were signing the security deal, their fighters clashed with security guards for nearly an hour in front of the house of the national security chief Ali al-Ahmadi. Two Hawthi supporters were killed in the shootout.

Al-Ahmadi is in charge of a key security apparatus that coordinates joint U.S-Yemeni efforts to combat the country's al-Qaida franchise. A security official said the Hawthis were trying to storm the building.

Elsewhere in the capital, a man on a motorcycle fired a portable missile at the armored vehicle of security guards protecting a building rented by the U.S. embassy, causing a loud explosion but no casualties, Yemeni security officials said. The two officials said the building was about two blocks away from the embassy itself. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

"We are aware of an attack with an assault weapon in Sanaa today. We have no indication that the U.S. Embassy was the target of the attack," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, adding that all embassy staff were accounted for and none were wounded in the attack. She said the Yemeni government was looking into the matter.

The U.S. Embassy in Yemen has been targeted several times in the past in attacks claimed by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which Washington views as the most potent affiliate of the global terror network.

The U.S. in recent years has provided aid and training to Yemeni counterterrorism forces and carried out regular drone strikes targeting al-Qaida militants.

The Yemeni government has struggled to counter the threat posed by the Hawthi rebels and the al-Qaida affiliate, while also confronting an increasingly assertive separatist movement in the south. The Hawthis have meanwhile vowed to go after al-Qaida, calling it an obstacle to state-building efforts.

The agreement reached on Friday would grant the Hawthis some executive power as it stipulates that the president name two advisers, one from the Hawthis and one from the southern separatist movement.

The deal also calls for the formation of a new government within a month and the restoration of fuel subsidies, which the outgoing government lifted in July. But the Hawthis and their rivals have thus far failed to agree on a new prime minister.


Associated Press writer Thomas Strong in Washington contributed to this report.


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