Yemen army and Houthi fighters clash in capital

SANAA - The army and Houthi fighters clashed in Yemen's capital Sanaa on Monday near the Yemeni president's house, a Reuters witness said.

Gunfire and explosions were heard across the city and in close proximity to the president's residence and the home of Yemen's national security chief. Security officials shut roads leading to the area.

No further details were immediately available, and authorities were not avaible to comment.

The Houthis, who demand more rights for the country's Zaydi Shi'ite Muslim sect and say they are campaining against corruption, seized Sanaa in September and advanced into central and western parts of the country where Sunnis predominate.

A deal signed in September between political parties and the Houthis called for the formation of a new unity government followed by the withdrawal of Houthi fighters from the capital. The fighters have remained in place.

The Houthis, who have launched attacks on al Qaeda's Yemen branch, are viewed as Shi'ite Iran's ally in its regional struggle for influence with Saudi Arabia. The kingdom has suspended most of its financial aid to Yemen since the Houthis arrived.