SANAA, Yemen, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- A Houthi rebel leader in north Yemen may have suffered critical injuries during an airstrike by Yemeni national forces, the government said.
The Yemeni Defense Ministry on its Web site last weekend referenced mounting claims that Abdul Malik al-Houthi was either dead or critically wounded in a recent air attack.
Iran's al-Alam news station report Monday that a rebel spokesman denied the claims, though the Defense Ministry said he died and was buried in north Yemen, Voice of America reports.
The government in August launched a major military operation against Houthi rebels in the north of the country. Aid groups complained the government operation created a humanitarian disaster for the thousands of families displaced by the conflict.
Saudi Arabia in recent weeks entered the fight against Houthi rebel groups because of border concerns. Yemen blames Iran for backing the rebel group while Washington faces mounting questions over its possible role in the fight.
U.S. officials downplay their role in Yemen, though reports Monday suggested the U.S. intelligence community has been active in Yemen at least since 2008.
Western analysts worry that Yemen is emerging as a hot bed for al-Qaida and other insurgent activity as the government faces pressure from Houthi rebels in the north and secessionist forces in the south.