SANAA, Yemen, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- The Yemeni army is negotiating with rebels to release ten soldiers they captured in recent days, sources close to the government said Tuesday.
An unidentified source told al-Yemen al-Yawm Web site, which is close to the government, the negotiations are taking place between the army and supporters of Shiite leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi, who are leading a rebellion against the government in the northern Yemeni region of Saada.
The Web site quoted tribal leaders in the area as saying a number of troops were abducted in recent days by elements believed to be al-Houthi rebels.
The authorities have prevented journalists from reaching Saada, where fierce battles are reportedly taking place in a government campaign to quell the rebellion.
The authorities said some 80 rebels and 40 soldiers were killed in a series of attacks last week. More than 400 rebels and troops have died in the past year.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh last month urged the rebels to surrender their weapons. Al-Houthi said he would surrender himself to the Yemeni authorities if his followers are not harmed. He also demanded the government compensate those affected by the battles, release prisoners and withdraw troops from the Saada province.
The Yemeni Parliament on Saturday urged the security forces to crush the rebellion, and denounced al-Houthi's "attack against the Jewish minority in Saada and his continuous threats against American interests."
Government officials have accused Iran and Libya of financing and supporting the rebellion.