Page last updated at 15:03 GMT, Sunday, 8 November 2009

Saudis 'push back Yemen rebels'

Saudi forces near the Yemen border
Saudi Arabia says its troops are ready to defend the border areas

Saudi Arabia says it has regained control of territory seized by Yemeni rebels in a cross-border incursion.

Saudi officials say their forces struck after Shia rebels attacked a patrol in the Asir region, killing one soldier.

Three more soldiers died in the fighting, officials say, but they deny rebel claims that others were captured.

The rebels, known as Houthis, say they are fighting discrimination in Yemen and accuse Saudi Arabia of supporting the Yemeni government.

BBC regional analyst Sebastian Usher says fighting between the rebels and the Yemeni government has long threatened to spill over the border.

Soldiers wounded

The demarcation of the border is not clear, our correspondent says. The mountainous area used to be part of Yemen and on the Saudi side still feels quite different from the rest of the kingdom, he adds.

The Saudis say their operation with aircraft and artillery was limited to their side of the border after rebels attacked last week.

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The Saudi official news agency quoted a senior official as saying 15 soldiers were wounded and several rebels arrested.

However, rebels say Saudi forces struck deep into northern Yemen and civilians were killed. The Saudis deny the claims.

On a visit to soldiers in the Asir border area, Saudi official Prince Faisal bin Khalid bin Abdul-Aziz said his country was ready to fight off any further rebel incursion.

"Things in the Asir area are secured, with God's will. We will deter anyone who tries to take an inch of the territory of Saudi Arabia, and God willing, we will kick them out," he said.

Observers say Saudi Arabia has become increasingly concerned about instability in Yemen, which faces a Shia insurgency in the north, growing separatism in the south and a renewed threat from al-Qaeda.

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