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Amid Yemen fighting with Shia Muslims, Obama offers aid

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As Yemen continues its military campaign against the Houthi fighters in the north, US President Barack Obama offers assistance to battle Shia Muslims.

On Sunday, President Ali Abdullah Saleh received a letter from Obama, which pledged economic aid and assistance in fighting terrorism, the Yemeni SABA news agency reported.

“The security of Yemen is vital for the security of the United States,” said Obama in the letter, which was delivered to Saleh by the assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism John Brennan.

In the letter, Obama hailed what he called the partnership between the two countries in fighting terrorism and said that the Shia Muslims organization poses a common threat to everyone.

The US president also said that Washington would adopt a new initiative to help Yemen confront “development challenges and supporting reform efforts,” along with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, donor states and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Obama’s letter came as the Yemeni government forces once again breached a temporary truce with the Zaidi Shia fighters they are fighting with in the north.

Since 2004, the Yemini army and the Zaidi Shia fighters have been engaged in violent periodic clashes, in a war which has claimed the lives of thousands and displaced up to 15,000 civilians- based on UN High Commission for Refugees estimates.

After just over a year of relative peace, a fifth round of fighting erupted on August 11, as the Yemeni government decided to launch a new wave of attacks against the northern provinces of Sa’dah and Amran.

Since then, several attempts have been made to restore truce between the two sides, but the government has renewed the fighting.

The Yemeni government accuses the Houthis of trying to restore a Zaidi imamate system, which was overthrown in a 1962 coup.

The rebels, however, say they are defending their people, which make up around 40 of Yemen’s population, against religious oppression and fighting for their civil rights.

The conflict has also affected other regional states, as San’a has accused Iran, Libya and Iraq of providing the fighters with weapons- allegations that have been denied by all three countries.

The rebels have also claimed that Saudi Arabia is “directly supporting” the government’s military offensive by providing it with different types of weapons, military vehicles and financial aid.

A website for Houthi fighters recently released new footage of what they say proves that the Yemeni army is using Saudi Arabian weapons.

Meanwhile in Iraq, Independent MP Izzat Shabandar lashed out at San’a on Monday, calling its accusations “ridiculous” and charging that Yemen has created a sanctuary for Saddam Hossein loyalists and al-Qaeda leaders.

After Pakistan, Yemen is seen as the primary haven for al-Qaeda militants, who are using the country to organize and train more recruits.

Although there was no mention in the SABA report of Obama making any specific reference to the conflict with Houthi fighters, it did point out that the US president had touched upon the need to fight al-Qaeda.

Last month, Yemeni forces launched anti-terrorist operations in a tribal area known as an al-Qaeda safe haven.

However, after a short while and without reaching any significant results, they ended the operation claiming that it was more imperative to address the situation in the north.

Obama’s offer to help fight Al-Qaeda to Sana’a – which has not demonstrated a strong detrmination to eradicate the terorist group -comes as the latest opinion polls indicate that most Americans are opposed to US “war on terrror” in Afghanistan.

A recent national poll published by the CNN showed that 57 percent of Americans are opposed to the Afghan war, while only 42 percent of respondents approve of Washington’s alleged military campaign against the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies.

US-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to allegedly eradicate militancy and arrest militan leaders .More than 8 years after the invasion, top Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders arre still at large.

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