Houthi attack hits Yemen’s Aden, kills 43
A bombardment in Aden by the Houthi militia and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh killed 43 people and injured 173 yesterday, the health ministry of Yemen’s exiled government said two days after declaring the city had been liberated.
Clashes continued in the city’s northern districts of Dar al-Saad and Sabr, and in Maashiq in Crater district as local fighters backed by the Riyadh-based government and a Saudi-led Arab coalition pushed to seize remaining parts of Aden.
Those fighters and Yemeni army forces loyal to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi seized Aden’s airport and other central areas in a sudden advance last week that broke months of deadlock in the city.
Their advance was aided by Gulf efforts to train and equip Yemeni army forces loyal to Hadi and transport them to Aden, Yemen’s second largest city and home to the main seaport.
Meanwhile local fighters and army forces in Yemen wrested two military bases from Houthi forces overnight on Saturday, residents and officials said, building on a week of gains against the country’s dominant faction.
The advances come a day after Yemen’s government in exile declared the key southern city of Aden “liberated”, in their biggest victory yet in a Saudi-led air campaign and civil war that has raged almost four months and killed more than 3,500 people.
Local fighters in Aden have been supported by coalition air strikes for nearly four months, but often fly the flag of a southern Yemen separatist movement rather than voicing loyalty to Hadi’s exiled government.
The Saudi-led coalition began its campaign on March 26, bidding to reverse months of advances by the Houthis after they moved from their northern stronghold last year, capturing the capital Sanaa and pushing south to Aden.
Riyadh fears its main enemy Iran will use its alliance with the Houthis to project influence into the kingdom’s southern neighbour, ultimately threatening the Saudi border.
It also believes the advance of the Shi’ite Muslim Houthis will aggravate sectarian violence in Yemen, further undermining the country’s stability and allowing jihadist groups like al Qaeda to consolidate there before targeting Saudi Arabia.
The war in Yemen has pitted the Sunni Muslim Gulf states, which support the exiled government, against the Shi’ite Houthis allied to Iran, in a conflict that has further raised the stakes as the Middle East grapples with regional rivalries and sectarian strife. But power struggles have simmered for years in the impoverished and conflict-wracked country, and fighters in Yemen’s south – the setting for most of the recent battles –have long sought independence from the North, the Houthis’ home.
Islamic State in Yemen issued a statement and several photographs online on Saturday claiming for the first time to have taken part in the clashes in Aden. It showed masked fighters in two pickup trucks and images of bound men it said were detained Houthi snipers.