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Shi'ite-Sunni ceasefire takes hold in north Yemen

Source: Reuters - Sat, 11 Jan 2014 18:39 GMT
Author: Reuters
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Armed followers of Yemen's Shi'ite Houthi group sit on a truck patrolling the vicinity of a ceremony attended by fellow Shi'ites in Dhahian of the northwestern Yemeni province of Saada February 3, 2012. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
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* Ceasefire enters its first day in North Yemen

* More than 100 killed in Damaj since fighting erupted

* Ceasefire deal includes exit of Salafis from town (Adds details of ceasefire agreement)

By Mohammed Ghobari

SANAA, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Fighting in north Yemen between Shi'ite Muslim Houthis and Sunni Salafis stopped on Saturday as a ceasefire deal took hold, according to a presidential committee trying to help end the conflict.

More than 100 people have been killed since violence erupted on Oct. 30 when the Houthi rebels who control much of Saada province on the Saudi border accused Salafis in the town of Damaj of recruiting thousands of foreign fighters to prepare to attack them.

The Salafis say the foreigners are students seeking to deepen their knowledge of Islam.

A number of previous ceasefires have failed to stick. But Yehia Abuesbaa, head of the committee, said the latest had a better chance of holding because it included all factions involved in the fighting in Saada and adjacent provinces.

The deal includes agreement by the Salafis to leave Damaj and move to the town of Hadida and stipulates that the foreign students should go home, according to the ceasefire document seen by Reuters.

It gives Yehia al-Hagouri, the Salafi leader and a signatory to the ceasefire, four days to leave along with his followers.

"We agreed to this deal after the government failed to protect us after we were under siege for 100 days," a Salafi source said.

The Yemeni army started deploying troops to oversee the ceasefire in neighbouring governorates on Friday evening and entered Damaj on Saturday, Abuesbaa of the government committee said.

The lull in the fighting enabled the Red Cross to evacuate 25 wounded people from Damaj.

The Houthi-Salafi conflict has compounded the challenges facing U.S.-allied Yemen, which is also grappling with a separatist movement in the south and an insurgency by Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda.

A bomb blew up on Saturday in the capital Sanaa near the house of a powerful general, Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, hours after a similar one was dismantled nearby, but there were no casualties, security sources said.

Ahmar, who sided with opponents of veteran president Ali Abdullah Saleh before he stepped down under pressure from mass protests in 2012, is military adviser to the current president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. (Writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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