Yemen announced a truce with northern Shi’ite rebels on Thursday, aimed at ending a war that has raged on-and-off since 2004 and that drew in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, a Yemeni official said.
The conflict with the northern rebels, who complain of social, religious and economic discrimination in the southern Arabian state, intensified last year. A truce was to start at midnight on Thursday, the official said.
The Yemeni rebels are known as the Houthis after the family name of their leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi. Here is some background about the Houthi rebels:
WHO ARE THE HOUTHIS?
* The Houthis, like most tribesmen in Yemen’s northern highlands, belong to the Zaidi sect of Shi’ite Islam, whose Hashemite line ruled for 1,000 years before a 1962 revolution.
* Zaidis, who make up about a third of Yemen’s 23 million people, have coexisted easily with majority Sunnis in the past, but Badr al-Din al-Houthi, a cleric from the northern province of Saada, promoted Zaidi revivalism in the 1970s, playing on fears that Saudi-influenced Salafis threatened Zaidi identity.
* After north and south Yemen united in 1990, the movement spawned the al-Haq party and the Houthi-led Believing Youth group. Houthi’s son, Hussein, was elected to parliament in 1993. Saada remained neglected economically by the Sanaa government.