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Houthi rebels say 54 killed in north Yemen air strike

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Rebels in northern Yemen say at least 54 people have been killed in an airstrike by Saudi Arabian planes.

Reports of the attack on Sunday came from a rebel spokesman and could not be verified immediately.

Last week the rebels accused Saudi Arabia of killing 70 civilians in an airstrike on the border area between the two countries.

Yemeni government and Saudi Arabian forces have been fighting the rebels, known as Houthis, since August.

"The town of al-Nadeer was targeted by air-strikes and 54 civilians, including women and children, were killed," a spokesman for the rebels told news agency Agence France Presse.

The rebels also posted the details on their website.

But independent media and aid agency access to the northern region of Saada, where the bombings are said to have taken place, is restricted.

Suppression

The rebels regularly accuse Saudi Arabia of carrying out air raids on Yemeni territory, a claim both governments deny.

Saudi troops near the Yemeni border (8 November 2009)
Saudi forces have been fighting rebels in the border area with Yemen

But Saudi forces have fought several skirmishes against rebels, who crossed over the border into Saudi Arabia in November, and shelled border areas.

The Houthis, named after their leader's family, say the Saudis are helping the Yemeni government suppress their demand for greater local autonomy.

The Houthis say they are trying to reverse the political, economic and religious marginalisation of the Zaydi Shia community in Yemen.

The Zaydi community are a minority in Yemen, but make up the majority in the north of the country.

The insurgents have been fighting the government since 2004.

The government launched a fresh offensive in August 2009, which precipitated a new wave of intense fighting.

It accuses the Houthis of wanting to re-establish Zaydi clerical rule, which ended in 1962.

Aid agencies say tens of thousands of people have been displaced.



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