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Yemen Shiite Houthis Fight Salafists Near Saudi Arabia’s Border

Yemen’s Shiite Muslim Houthis killed 24 Salafist Sunni Muslims yesterday after a week of sporadic fighting between the two religious communities in the north of the country near the border with Saudi Arabia.

The Houthis attacked the Dar al-Hadith religious school in the Dammaj region in Saada, according to Abdulhamid al-Hajouri, the principal of the school. About 60 Salafists, who are considered conservative Sunni Muslims, were wounded in the clashes, Abu Ismail, spokesman for the group in Dammaj, said in a phone interview today. Several Houthi fighters were also killed and wounded, Dhaifallah al-Shami, a leader of the Shiite group, said.

The fighting occurred the same week that President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed an agreement to relinquish power to Vice President Abdurabu Mansur Hadi. Saleh and an opposition delegation signed on Nov. 23 a power-transfer agreement brokered by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.

The Houthis, so-called because of the family name of their leaders, began fighting the government in the northern province of Saada in 2004. The conflict has in the past drawn in Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim-led monarchy. Saudi Arabia lost more than 100 soldiers in a three-month battle against the Houthis that ended in February 2010.

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