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Anti-Houthi forces advance in Yemen

July 18, 2015

Government loyalists in Yemen have said they captured more ground from Houthi rebels. The advances come after the exiled government claimed the "liberation" of the key city of Aden.

Image: Reuters/Str

Local fighters and army forces in Yemen were reported on Saturday to have consolidated advances made earlier in the week and also gained ground against the Houthi rebels who control much of the country.

Residents and officials say the Shiite rebels were driven from two military bases overnight, a day after Yemen's government in exile declared the southern port city of Aden to have been "liberated", marking the biggest government victory in months.

One of the bases reportedly retaken from the rebels was the Labuza army base in Lahj province, north of Aden, and the other was the headquarters of the 117th armored division in eastern Shabwa province some 230 kilometers (145 miles) away.

The rebels have not confirmed the recapture of the bases.

The pro-government forces and allied local fighters were backed by airstrikes carried out by a Saudi-led coalition.

Sunni Muslim Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, are supporting the Yemeni government in a bid to counter a perceived threat that Shiite Iran is backing the Houthi rebels to gain a foothold on the Arabian Peninsula.

Ongoing clashes in Aden

Residents meanwhile say that fighting continued inside Aden on Saturday, despite government claims on Friday to have regained complete control of the city.

Military officials said they had underestimated the number of rebel fighters in Aden's downtown district of Tawahi, but that they would regroup and launch another offensive.

Senior government officials are currently in Aden, preparing for the government's return to the city, although a Houthi official said the rebel group was trying to regain full control and was ready to fight to the death.

Exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi had declared Aden as Yemen's seat of government when the Houthis overran the capital, Sanaa, earlier in the year.

Jihadi involvement?

In a new development, the jihadi Sunni group "Islamic State" on Saturday claimed for the first time to have taken part in the fighting in Aden against the Houthis, posting images on the Internet purporting to show bound Houthi snipers.

The group, which controls large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, had previously claimed responsibility for a number of deadly attacks on Houthis in Sanaa, but it was not known to have engaged in direct fighting with the rebels.

tj/sms (Reuters, AP, dpa)