Shiite rebels believed to be seeking to advance on Yemen's capital have attacked an army post in a neighbouring city, killing three soldiers and losing two of their own, tribal sources said Thursday.
The Zaidi rebels, also known as Ansarullah or Huthis, carried out the attack in Amran, 50 kilometres (31 miles) north of Sanaa, late on Wednesday, tribal sources said.
Military sources have said their objective was to seize Amran and, from there, lay siege to the capital.
The Huthis have fought the government for years, complaining of marginalisation under former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted in 2012 following a year of protests.
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Saleh's successor, President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, and party leaders have agreed to transform Yemen into a six-region federation as part of a political transition.
The rebels, who complain that would divide Yemen into rich and poor regions, have been trying to enlarge their zone of influence by pushing out from their mountain strongholds in the far north to areas closer to the capital.
Amran has been the scene of months of sporadic fighting and remained tense Thursday, an AFP correspondent reported.
Both sides have dug trenches in the city and its environs as army tanks deployed across the area.
In early February, they seized parts of Amran province in fighting with local tribes that killed more than 150 people.