Sana’a: Yemeni troops began to deploy in the northern province of Saada on Saturday to monitor a ceasefire between Shiite rebels and hardline Salafists, a security official said.
The deal brokered by a presidential commission ends fighting that erupted in late October centred on a Salafist mosque and Quranic school in the small town of Dammaj in Saada.
But the conflict had spread in the northern provinces, embroiling Sunni tribes wary of the power of the Shiite rebels, known as Al Houthis, who have been accused of receiving support from Iran.
“Forces have begun deploying in the areas surrounding Dammaj,” the Saada-based security official said, adding that some gunmen had not yet vacated their posts.
The deal, which was signed late on Friday, stipulated the two sides would withdraw from the areas around Dammaj to be replaced by army troops who would monitor the ceasefire, said Yahya Abu Isba, head of the presidential mediation commission.
“This agreement ends the military conflict between the [Al] Houthis and the Salafists in Dammaj ... and prevents a sectarian war that was looming over Yemen,” he told state television.
The Al Houthis, named after their late leader Abdul Malek Al Houthi, are part of the Zaidi Shiite community.
They rose up in 2004 in their stronghold of Saada against the government of ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, accusing it of marginalising them.
They accuse radical Sunnis in Dammaj of turning the town centre into “a real barracks for thousands of armed foreigners”, a reference to the Dar Al Hadith Quranic school, where foreigners study.
The security official said that a plane is expected to evacuate “foreign students” and the leader of the Salafists in Dammaj, Yahya Al Hujuri, on Saturday.
Dammaj has a population of around 15,000 people.