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Yemen tells Shi'ite rebels to disband or face war


3:18 a.m. January 29, 2007

SANAA – Yemen's president on Monday warned Islamist Shi'ite militants who killed six soldiers to surrender their weapons or face a showdown with security forces.

'There is a special force ready to uproot them if they do not disband and put down their weapons as soon as possible. This operation would not take long,' President Ali Abdullah Saleh said at an army event in the capital, Sanaa.

'You have been forewarned,' he added, addressing the rebels.

The six soldiers were killed and 20 wounded when the rebels launched rare attacks on government forces in the northern province of Saada on Saturday.

Officials said Shi'ite rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi and his followers were behind the attacks. Houthi is the son of Sheikh Badr el-Deen al-Houthi and the brother of hardline cleric Hussein al-Houthi who was killed in 2004.

Yemen accuses the rebels led by the Houthi clerics of wanting to install Shi'ite religious rule and of preaching violence against the United States.

Saleh accused 'some countries' he refused to name of supplying Houthi's group with weapons and financial support.

Sunni Muslims make up most of Yemen's 19 million people, while Shi'ite Muslims account for about 15 percent of the population.

In March 2006, Yemen freed more than 600 Shi'ite rebels as part of an amnesty to end two years of clashes that have killed several hundred soldiers and rebels.

Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, joined the U.S.-led war on terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Houthi's supporters are not linked to al Qaeda.

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