At least 34 killed in north Yemen clashes

At least 28 Shiite rebels and four soldiers dead

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At least 28 Shiite rebels, four Yemeni soldiers and two tribesmen were killed in the latest fighting in northern Yemen on the seventh week of an army offensive, local and military sources said on Saturday.

Six of the Zaidi rebels and the four soldiers were killed in overnight clashes in Al-Kahoum, west of Harf Sufyan, the scene of heavy fighting on the road linking the capital with the Saada region, a rebel stronghold, a military commander told AFP.

Saba state news agency said late Friday that four of "the most dangerous" rebels were killed as army troops combed the area of Zu Sulaiman in the Harf Sufyan district.

Eight others were killed in neighbouring farms, while nine rebels "who had barricaded themselves in the houses of civilians" were also killed in the area of Maqqash, in Saada, it added, quoting a military source.

Meanwhile, two tribesmen and at least one rebel died in a clash between tribes fighting alongside the government forces and the rebels in the north, Saba quoted local sources as saying.

Sources in the region told AFP the rebels on Saturday seized control of the Khaneq bridge on the Saada-Sanaa road in Harf Sufyan. Heavy fighting also continued in Al-Amsheya, north of Harf Sufyan, they added.

The rebels said they downed a government MiG warplane on Friday, but officials said the jet crashed due to technical problems.

The army launched "Operation Scorched Earth" on August 11 in an attempt to finally crush an uprising in which thousands of people have been killed since it first broke out in 2004.

The United Nations estimates 55,000 people have fled their homes because of the conflict.

The authorities accuse the rebels of seeking to restore the Zaidi Shiite imamate that was overthrown in a republican coup in 1962, triggering an eight-year civil war. The government also says they are backed by Shiite Iran.

But the rebels deny both claims.