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Yemen Sends Emissaries to Troubled Region - 2004-06-26

Yemen has sent government emissaries to the mountainous region of Saada, where ongoing clashes between militants and Yemeni security forces claimed dozens of lives.

Yemeni authorities say they hope the delegation can end the bloodshed, which erupted almost a week ago in the mountainous region near the Saudi border some 240 kilometers north of the capital, Sanaa.

The violence erupted last Sunday between Yemeni security forces and supporters of Shi'ite cleric Hussein Badr Eddin al-Houti. A Yemeni journalist in the capital, Mohamad Al-Qadhi, says the government hopes to persuade the cleric to surrender.

"They have been sent to the area to start negotiating with the leaders so that they can reach a conciliation," he said. "They want to try and advise this man to surrender to the government peacefully."

Leader of the delegation, Abdel Kareem Jadban, says they are making progress.

He says Mr. Al-Hothy is insisting on his right to express himself, but that he also is not against the idea of giving himself up voluntarily. Speaking on the Arabic Language television network al-Arabiya, Mr. Jadban says the government's goal is to stop the bloodshed.

Yemeni government says troops will continue to surround the area with helicopter-backed forces until Mr. Al-Hothy gives himself up. Troops combing the area are reported to have arrested several Al-Hothy supporters and confiscated large amounts of weapons and ammunition.

According to Mr. Al-Qadhi, the rebellious cleric has a large following.

"The man has set an organization called El Shabab El Muslim or Islamic Youth, so this organization has been standing behind the campaign against America and Israel," said Mohamad Al-Qadhi. "They have been leading campaigns during the private prayers in mosques all over the country, including Sanaa and some of these people have been arrested by the government."

Mr. Al-Hothy has been accused by the government of alleged involvement in several attacks on government officials and institutions, and in stirring anti-American sentiment at mosques. He denies the charges.

Gulf expert Abdallah Al-Ashaal says what's behind the rebellion is the feeling of neglect by the central government.

"They are not happy with their status, they want to improve their position within the authority and in life and in Yemen they have oil, and perhaps this oil is not well reflecting itself on the life of its people, so this a factional revolt against the government," he said.

He says Al-Hothy's followers are almost certainly not connected to any terrorist group.