Loyalists and rebels clash in Yemen, jeopardising truce

Marib (Yemen) (AFP) - Loyalists and rebels have clashed on several fronts in Yemen, officials said Tuesday, the second day of a UN-brokered ceasefire the insurgents are warning is in jeopardy, less than a week before peace talks.

Forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fought with the Shiite Huthi rebels in the province of Marib, east and north of the rebel-held capital Sanaa, officials said.

The rebels and their allies loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh advanced overnight in the area of Sarwah, in Marib, wresting control of two hills, a military official said.

The Saudi-led coalition, which launched a military campaign against the Iran-backed rebels last year, had described violations on Monday as "minor".

Seven soldiers have been killed and 15 others wounded in Sarwah in rebel attacks since the ceasefire entered into force at midnight between Sunday and Monday, the official said.

There were also clashes in Nihm, northeast of Sanaa, military officials said, while rebels said they confronted an attack by Hadi's forces in the area.

The rebels said Monday that pro-government forces were behind 39 violations of the truce, including attacks in Taez and the central province of Baida.

They also said warplanes belonging to the Saudi-led coalition flew sorties over several areas of Yemen despite the ceasefire.

A soldier was killed and nine others wounded in a rebel attack on an army base near the southern city of Baihan which borders Marib province.

- Saudi suicide bomber -

Rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam warned in a statement on Facebook that "continued military action endangers the peace process and reduce the chances of holding the forthcoming dialogue" in Kuwait.

But violations did not seem to discourage the United Nations which is sponsoring peace talks in Kuwait next week.

"The cessation of hostilities seems to be largely holding," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday, although he noted that there were "some pockets of violence."

More than 6,300 people have been killed in the war that has worsened the humanitarian crisis, with more than 80 percent of the population on the brink of famine.

The conflict in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula nation has ruined large parts of the country and raised Middle East tensions, with Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies backing the government and Shiite powerhouse Iran supporting the rebels.

The peace talks are scheduled to take place in Kuwait on April 18.

Elsewhere, a Saudi bomber suspected of belonging to Al-Qaeda killed five soldiers when he detonated his explosive belt Tuesday among army recruits in Aden, the southern city that serves as a temporary capital for the government.

Army and government installations have been the target of several attacks by extremists since pro-government forces drove out Shiite rebels in the summer.

Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have taken advantage of the chaos caused by the war between the government and the rebels to strengthen their grip on southern Yemen.