Page last updated at 17:52 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Saudi troops retake village from Yemen Houthi rebels

Prince Khaled bin Sultan visits troops at the border with Yemen in Jizan province, January 12, 2010
Prince Khaled bin Sultan addressed state TV near the front line

Saudi troops have regained control of a border village occupied by Yemeni Shia rebels since November, the kingdom's deputy defence minister has said.

Prince Khaled bin Sultan told state TV that four Saudi soldiers and "hundreds" of rebels were killed in the clashes.

He said the overall death toll of Saudi soldiers in the border conflict with Yemen's Houthi rebels now stood at 82.

Riyadh began operations against the rebels in November after a Saudi soldier was killed along the border.

Regional threat

Prince Khaled bin Sultan said Yemeni rebels had "inflicted upon themselves hundreds of deaths" in the border village of al-Jabiri after ignoring a 48-hour deadline to quit their positions, the Reuters news agency reports.

Security Correspondent Frank Gardner explains the conflict in the border area

"The infiltrators have been eliminated from al-Jabiri and the whole district has been taken under control," he told state-owned al-Ekhbariya television, adding that 21 Saudi soldiers were missing.

The rebels have repeatedly accused Saudi forces of targeting their villages and killing civilians, but Riyadh says its military operations have been confined to Saudi territory.

While the conflict between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis began recently, fighting between the rebels from the minority Shia Zaidi sect and the Yemeni government has occurred sporadically since 2004.

The rebels accuse the government of social, economic and religious marginalisation.

Map of Yemen

Also on Tuesday, Yemen's interior ministry said Yemeni forces killed at least 19 rebels in the northern city of Saada and arrested another 20.

According to the latest UN figures, an estimated 200,000 people have been displaced by the conflict.

Alongside the fighting in the north and a secessionist movement in the south, Western policymakers believe al-Qaeda is gaining a foothold in Yemen.

Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said instability in Yemen was a global as well as regional threat.

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