Yemen frees jailed Shia rebels in 'peace deal'

Houthi rebels (file photo from February 2010) Houthi rebels signed a truce with the government in February 2010

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The Yemeni government has begun releasing hundreds of northern Shia rebels as part of a peace deal, officials say.

A spokesman for the rebels, known as Houthis, told Reuters news agency 426 people had been freed on Thursday. Further releases are expected in the coming days.

Fighting between the government and rebels has been flaring up since 2004.

Last February a truce was agreed between the sides.

Earlier this week, a Qatari delegation arrived in Yemen to discuss the truce.

"(Qatar's) efforts being exerted at the moment are fruitful," an unnamed official was quoted as saying.

He added that the Houthis would return equipment seized in confrontations with the government as part of the peace deal.

Houthis complain they are the victims of economic and religious discrimination, which the government denies.

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