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Saudis say fighting with Yemen insurgents has ceased

The Shiite Muslim insurgents are battling the Yemeni government, but the rebels spilled into Saudi Arabia, leading to clashes with the kingdom. The rebels offered a cease-fire on Monday.

January 28, 2010|By Jeffrey Fleishman
  • Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan greets Saudi soldiers on Mt. Doud, a strategic position in the southern Saudi province of Jizan, near the border with Yemen.
Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan greets Saudi soldiers… (Hassan Ammar / Associated…)

Reporting from Cairo — Nearly three months of fighting between Saudi Arabian troops and Shiite Muslim rebels along the Yemen border has ended, the Saudi government announced Wednesday, declaring victory two days after the rebels offered a cease-fire.

Saudi ground forces and warplanes have pounded Houthi militants since the rebels killed a Saudi border guard and infiltrated a string of villages in early November. The fighting, which led to fear of wider regional chaos, drew the kingdom into a sporadic 5-year-old conflict between the insurgents and the Yemeni government.

There has been no official cease-fire, and it was unclear whether fighting would resume in mountains where the rebels continue to battle Yemeni forces. The Houthis had attacked Saudi positions along the border after accusing the kingdom of helping Yemen in its attempt to crush a rebellion that since 2004 has killed hundreds of people and forced 200,000 to flee their homes.

Rebel leader Abdul Malik Houthi proposed a cease-fire Monday, saying his movement wished "to avoid more bloodshed and to stop aggression on civilians."

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Prince Khaled bin Sultan, the Saudi deputy defense minister, said the kingdom had won a "clear victory" and that the rebels had been forced back into Yemen.

"We cleansed the area. . . . Withdrawal was not an option for them," he said.

In comments broadcast by the news channel Al Arabiya, Maj. Gen. Said Ghamdi offered a slightly different version. He said that after the Houthi fighters proposed a cease-fire, "they did not fire and we did not have any engagement."

"They are not on our lands. The battle has ended by God's will."

The cease-fire offer was posted on the rebels' website and came with a warning that "if the Saudi regime maintains its aggression after this initiative, it would be showing that its intention is not to defend its territory, but to invade our borders."

Khaled said that 109 Saudi soldiers had died in fighting and that two were missing and four were being held by the Houthis. Saudi forces captured 1,500 Yemenis, including smugglers. The prince said that Houthi snipers remained on the Saudi side of the border.

jeffrey.fleishman@latimes.com

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