Thursday 26 April 2018

Yemen pro-government troops retake rebel-held base in south

People stand amid wreckage of a vehicle at the site of a car bomb attack next to a Shiite mosque in Sanaa, Yemen (AP)
People stand amid wreckage of a vehicle at the site of a car bomb attack next to a Shiite mosque in Sanaa, Yemen (AP)

Yemen's pro-government troops have fought pockets of resistance outside a key military base in the country's south, a day after they seized it from Shiite rebels, military officials said.

The capture of the Al-Anad base - once the site of US intelligence operations against al Qaida's powerful Yemeni affiliate - was a significant victory for the forces allied to Yemen's exiled president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in their battle to reverse the gains of the rebels known as Houthis.

The base was taken by the rebels when the conflict intensified in the spring and was their main encampment in the country's south.

The pro-government forces took 45 prisoners in the battle for the base and were marching north towards another rebel-held military base called Labouza - the largest in the south, the military officials said.

As Al-Anad fell, rebel fighters fled to the nearby hills, the officials added.

Yemen's Defence Ministry announced the "liberation of Al-Anad military base" late on Monday, thanking the Saudi-led coalition that has been targeting the Houthis in an air campaign since March.

Ministry officials and military leaders from Mr Hadi's government in exile in Saudi Arabia, returned to the southern city of Aden last week and the statement was issued from there. In a statement carried by rebel-controlled news agency SABA, the rebels denied the base had been taken.

It took several days to capture Al-Anad, with pro-government troops, backed by tanks and armoured personnel carriers, pushing toward the base as coalition airstrikes cleared the path for their advance.

Military officials said allied fighters had cut off the main road between al-Anad and the embattled city of Taiz for the first time since the Houthis took control of it in March.

The fighting in Yemen pits the Houthis and troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh against southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants and Mr Hadi's loyalists.

After months of fierce fighting, pro-government forces also recently pushed rebels out of Aden and advanced in Taiz, Yemen's third-largest city.

Since last month, they have received military supplies shipped by sea to Aden, including new heavy and medium weapons and ammunition such as tanks, artillery, missiles and armoured vehicles in shipments from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The spokesman of the Yemeni government in exile, Rageh Badie, said the government also has requested flights on Yemen's national carrier bound for the rebel-held capital Sanaa to be diverted to Aden.

In Geneva, the UN refugee agency said 100,000 people have fled the fighting in Yemen over the past four months.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Adrian Edwards said that the agency only has one fifth of the funds needed to meet this outflow.

"With funding also low for operations inside Yemen, UNHCR is concerned that delivery of assistance there, as well as to refugees fleeing the country, will be at risk without additional funding soon," Mr Edwards said.

Press Association

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