SANAA — The Yemeni army has seized Iranian-made weapons used by Shiite rebels who are locked in fighting with government forces in the north of the country, a security official said on Saturday.
"The troops... have discovered six storehouses for weapons that belong to the Huthi rebels and contain some Iranian-made weapons, including machine guns, short-range rockets and ammunition," the official said.
The official said the weapons were found as the troops advanced on rebel positions in areas near the rugged mountainous city of Saada, where the army launched an offensive called Operation Scorched Earth 12 days ago against the rebels.
Last week, Information Minister Ahmed al-Lawzi indirectly accused Iran of supporting the Zaidi Shiite rebels, who are also known as Huthis, in the fighting.
Witnesses meanwhile reported that fierce battles were raging in the troubled north as the army stepped up its offensive, killing or wounding dozens of people.
The rebels, who accuse government forces of having killed dozens of civilians, said in a statement that they captured 80 soldiers, while locals said two Huthi leaders were killed in ferocious clashes on Friday night.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh pledged on Wednesday to crush the Shiite rebellion after the fighting that began in the Saada province on the border with Saudi Arabia spread to the Amran province to the south.
The rebels, led by Abdul-Malek al-Huthi, have been engaged in fighting with government forces on and off since 2004. The government accuses them of seeking to reinstate imamate rule, which ended in a republican coup in 1962.
But the Huthis say they are defending their villages against what they call state aggression.
An offshoot of Shiite Islam, the Zaidis are a minority in mainly Sunni Yemen but form the majority community in the north. President Saleh is himself a Zaidi.
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