12 Killed in Yemen Salafists-Zaidi Clashes

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Twelve people were killed in renewed clashes between Shiite Zaidi rebels and Salafists in northern Yemen on Saturday, the second straight day of bloodshed, tribal sources said.

They died in fierce fighting in the streets of Reda in Amran province, some 80 kilometers north of the capital Sanaa, witnesses said, adding that few residents ventured out because of the clashes.

"Eight men from Sunni tribes were killed and 11 wounded in the fighting," a tribal source told Agence France Presse, while a Shiite rebel source spoke of "four dead and nine wounded among the Zaidi ranks."

Saturday's death toll was earlier put at eight, a day after another Salafist was reported killed.

Witnesses said Zaidi rebels shelled a mosque in Reda on Saturday morning and also blew up a Koranic school. Fighting still raged in the afternoon.

The confrontations first broke out as Salafists and tribesmen tried to prevent a Zaidi protest against administrative appointments in their regions.

The two sides, armed with rocket-propelled grenades, brought in reinforcements and the situation was tense in the city, witnesses said.

Residents said tensions escalated after the appointment of supporters of the Islamist party al-Islah to head Yemen's northern provinces, a move rejected by the Zaidis.

The clashes come ahead of a national dialogue scheduled for later this year as part of a political agreement that led to the February departure of president Ali Abdullah Saleh following a year of unrest.

Zaidi rebels have indicated they would take part in the dialogue.

Dozens of people have been killed since last year in sectarian clashes between the rebels and Sunni Salafists trying to tighten their grip on northern Yemen, in the absence of government control.

Zaidis make up a minority in the Sunni-majority country.

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