Shi'ite group hands back army camp to Yemeni government

Reuters , Saturday 12 Jul 2014

Shi'ite Muslim tribesmen handed back an army camp to the Yemeni government on Saturday, an activist in the group said, to try to defuse tensions caused by the capture of a provincial capital north of Sanaa this week.

The fall of Omran, some 50 kms (31 miles) north from the Yemeni capital, has drawn condemnation from the U.N. Security Council and a threat of military action by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who had ordered the army to raise its preparedness level to "carry out any tasks that may be assigned to it".

The activist, Osama Sari, said the Shi'ite Houthis handed over the headquarters of the 311 Division to an army force despatched from Sanaa.

Hussein al-Azzi, a politburo member of Ansarullah (Supporter of God), as the Houthi group is officially known, said all measures had been taken to facilitate the handover of the camp to the army, which he said had come as a result of "understandings reached with official authorities".

"And we are always ready for further understandings about the normalisation of the situation in the province," he added in comments posted on his Facebook page.

The fighting has killed at least 200 people, displaced more than 35,000 and sparked widespread fears of further turmoil in the U.S.-allied country of 25 million. Yemen has been trying recover from political crisis that started with mass protests in 2011 that forced President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

The Houthis captured Omran on Tuesday after days of fighting against government soldiers and allied Sunni tribal fighters in clashes that had threatened to turn into a sectarian conflict.

The fall of Omran came less than a week after a ceasefire reached on June 23 collapsed with both sides blaming each other.

The Houthis, named after the tribe of their leader, said their fight was against rivals loyal to the Islamist Islah party, and they had no intention of attacking the capital Sanaa, just south of Omran.

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