Middle East

Yemen agrees truce with Shia Houthi fighters - UN envoy

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe BBC's Laura Westbook reports

Yemen has agreed a truce with a Shia Houthi group after a week of mounting clashes in the capital, Sanaa, raised fears of a sectarian war, the UN says.

The deal to end the crisis was struck "after intense consultations with all the political parties", UN envoy Jamal Benomar said.

A curfew has been declared in Sanaa after fighting between the group and Sunni militias killed four people.

Several homes and a hospital were struck by mortar fire on Saturday.

The showdown between the Houthis and forces loyal to the main Sunni party, Islah, has triggered Yemen's worst crisis since 2011.

The Shia group's advance on the capital has left scores dead this week and damaged many key buildings.

Much of the latest fighting was in the northern part of the capital, where the Shia fighters tried to seize control of the Iman University from fighters loyal to Islah.

The Houthis had also taken over the state television building, the Associated Press news agency said.

The capital's international airport remained closed for a second day. Hundreds have fled their homes.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Houthis have been advancing upon Sanaa for several weeks

In a statement released late on Saturday, Mr Benomar said the agreement between the Houthis and the government should "advance the path of peaceful change".

He said preparations were being made for signing the deal.

The Houthis belong to the minority Zaidi Shia community and are based in the mountainous northern province of Saada. They have staged periodic uprisings since 2004 to win greater autonomy for Saada.

For several weeks, Houthi fighters have been advancing upon the capital, skirmishing with rivals and staging protests demanding political and economic reforms.

This week they attacked the offices of Islah as well as the headquarters of Yemen's state TV station.

President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi has described the rebel offensive as a "coup attempt".

Yemen has remained unstable since an outbreak of anti-government protests in 2011, which forced the then-President Ali Abdallah Saleh from office.

Related Topics

More on this story