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Killing of 4 Shiites in Yemeni Capital Sanaa Increases Tension

Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Four Shiite Houthi Muslims were killed in an explosion at a worship site in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in an increase of tension in the poorest Arab country.

The attack on people gathered for a religious festival yesterday left 10 others wounded, the Defense Ministry said on its website. The Shiite Houthi have fought against the government in the predominantly Sunni Muslim country.

“It seems to be quite an escalation of an ideologically-based armed conflict,” Abdulwahab Alkebsi, regional director for Africa and the Middle East at the Washington-based Center for International Private Enterprise, said in an interview. “This brings the conflict into the capital, with an attack on worshippers during a time of prayers and reflection.”

Yemen suffers from terrorism and civil unrest as it makes the transition to democracy under Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi, who was elected president in February. The so-called Arab Spring, which began almost two years ago in Tunisia, led to the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

“An important element of the transition is an all-inclusive national dialogue, scheduled to take place later this year,” the United Nations said in a statement on its website Nov. 23. The creation of a constitution is scheduled to “conclude in late 2013, enabling general elections to take place in February 2014,” according to the statement.

The Shiite Houthis were attacked as they were leaving al-Mad’en Hall where they were celebrating a religious festival for the first time, the al-Masirah satellite television of a Shiite group reported. The assailants fired a rocket-propelled grenade, the Associated Press reported.

Yemen has accused Shiite-led Iran of arming the Houthi rebels, who have been fighting the government in the northwestern province of Saada since 2004.

The conflict with Houthis in the north of Yemen has in the past drawn in Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim-led monarchy that last month sent troops to help suppress a Shiite-led uprising in another neighbor, Bahrain.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mohammed Hatem in Dubai at mhatem1@bloomberg.net Kasia Klimasinska in Washington at kklimasinska@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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