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Yemen government signs peace deal with Shiites

Sanaa (Yemen): Yemeni government officials and Shiite rebels signed a peace agreement today following days of violence that have left more than 140 people dead and sent thousands fleeing their homes, state media said, giving no details on the content of the agreement.

UN Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomer said in a statement yesterday that the document "will lay the foundations for national partnership and for security and stability in the country".

Just hours earlier, state media reported that the country's prime minister had resigned, but the president's office denied it had received any such request, deepening a sense of uncertainty in the country.

The conflicting information came as Shiite rebels known as Hawthis sized numerous strategically important installations in the capital, Sanaa, including the Defense Ministry, the Central Bank, a key military base and Iman University, military and security officials said.

The Hawthis have in recent months routed their Islamist foes in a series of battles north of Sanaa, and in recent days consolidated and expanded their grip on areas just to the north of the capital. Their foes have traditionally been Sunni Islamist militias allied with the government or the fundamentalist Islah party. The Hawthis have been pressing for a change of government and what they see as a fair share of power.

In many cases, officials said the rebels handed over installations they captured to the military police or to popular committees comprising Hawthis and local residents to protect them against looting.

However, they dealt harshly with personnel and installations associated with their foes in years of war, such as the university, which was seen as a bastion of Sunni hard-liners and a recruitment hub for militants.

Today afternoon, the official SABA news agency announced the resignation of Mohammed Salem Bassindwa but gave no details on the move.

A subsequent report by the agency quoted the president's office as saying it had not received any such request. Bassindwa took office shortly after Saleh was forced to step down. He has been in office since February 2012 and has been sharply criticized for his inability to deal with the country's pressing problems.

The military base captured by the Hawthis is the headquarters of the army's 1st Armored Division, an elite outfit led by Maj. Gen Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who has led several military campaigns against the Hawthis in the north. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief reporters.

 

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