By Fatik Al-Rodaini
SANA'A, March 9, 2012- At least seven people were killed on Wednesday, among them a high-ranking military commander in Yemen's northern province of Ameran in an exchange of gunfire with Houthi group.
Sources said that the exchange of gunfire took place in Harf Safyan district, Ameran province, north of Sana'a, when the head of an army brigade and six of his bodyguards refused to stop at an armed checkpoint set up by the Houthis, killing the officer and his bodyguards along with three Houthis.
The attacks against Yemeni government troops by Houthi elements in Yemen's northern province of Sa'ada were always one of the several reasons that caused the previous six wars. Houthis mainly control the far northern province of Sa'ada but recently they have expanded their grip over some parts of Hajjah, Al-Jawf, and Amran provinces.
Two weeks ago the Houthi group was hit by a bomb blast during an anti-U.S. protest wounding at least 22 people. The group accused in a statement the United States of standing behind the attack. However Houthis have their real enemies and they are prime targets for AQAP and Sunni groups, who have a difference ideological, intellectual and doctrinal with the group.
The Shiite rebels led by Saada-based Abdulmalik Al-Houthi opposed the political-settlement deal that swore in the country's consensus President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and ended almost a year of protests against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
In recent months, the region has seen bouts of fighting between the Houthis and Sunni Muslims espousing puritanical Salafi doctrines influential in Saudi Arabia. The Houthis have accused Riyadh of arming their foes. Sunnis make up nearly 60 percent of Yemen’s population, while the Shiites account for 40 percent.
The Houthi-led rebels have been engaging in severe sectarian conflicts for several months with Sunni fundamentalists in Saada and neighboring provinces of Hajja and Jawf that left hundreds of people killed and forced thousands of residents to flee their villages.
Yemen has witnessed sporadic battles since 2004 between government troops and rebels. The government has been accusing the rebels of seeking to re-establish the clerical rule overthrown by the Yemeni revolution in 1962 that created the Yemeni republic.
Here is a timeline tracing clashes in the north since 2004:
2004 June-August - Government troops battle supporters of dissident cleric Hussein al-Houthi in the north; estimates of the dead range from 80 to more than 600.
2004 August - Court sentences 15 men on terror charges, including bombing of Limburg tanker in 2002.
2004 September - Government says its forces have killed dissident cleric Hussein al-Houthi, the leader of a revolt in the north.
2005 March-April - More than 200 people are killed in a resurgence of fighting between government forces and supporters of the slain rebel cleric Hussein al-Houthi.
2005 May - President Saleh says the leader of the rebellion in the north has agreed to renounce the campaign in return for a pardon. Minor clashes continue.
2005 July - Police and witnesses say at least 36 people are killed across the country in clashes between police and demonstrators protesting about a cut in fuel subsidies.
2005 December - More than 60 people are killed when a landslide destroys a mountain village around 20km from Sanaa.
2006 March - More than 600 followers of slain Shia cleric Hussein al-Houthi who were captured following a rebellion he led in 2004 are released under an amnesty.
2007 January-March - Scores are killed or wounded in clashes between security forces and al-Houthi rebels in the north.
2007 June - Rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi accepts a ceasefire.
2008 January - Renewed clashes between security forces and rebels loyal to Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.
2009 June - Nine foreigners are abducted in remote Saada region. The bodies of three are later found. The fate of the remaining six hostages remains unclear, though local rebels deny responsibility.
2009 August - The Yemeni army launches a fresh offensive against Shia rebels in the northern Saada province. Tens of thousands of people are displaced by the fighting.
2009 October - Clashes break out between the northern rebels and Saudi security forces along the two countries' common border. The rebels accuse Saudi Arabia of supporting the Yemeni government in attacks against them. The Saudi government denies this.
2009 November - Saudi Arabia says it has regained control of territory seized by Yemeni rebels in a cross-border incursion.
2010 February - Government signs ceasefire with northern rebels.
2010 March - Northern rebels release 178 captives after the government accuses the Shia Houthi group of failing to comply with the terms of the truce reached in February.
2010 December - Yemen says 3,000 soldiers killed in recent outbreak of fighting involving Houthi rebels.