Loyalist forces gain ground in southern Yemen, await return of Hadi administration to Aden
Fighters loyal to exiled Yemeni president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi drive down a street in the southern port city Aden in late May, after fierce clashes with Houthi forces. Loyalist fighters now say they have gained ground in southern Yemen, days after recapturing Aden. (AFP/File)
Loyalists of Yemen's exiled government, backed by a Saudi-led air coalition, have gained ground in the southern province of Shabwa days after recapturing the southern city of Aden from Iran-backed Houthi rebels, tribal sources said on Saturday.
Fighters from the self-styled Popular Resistance movement carried out a major offensive against Houthi fighters and allied military units in Behan, a key city in Shabwa, driving them out of the area, a local tribal official told dpa.
"The resistance fighters have retaken control of several positions from the Houthis and their allies, including the 119 Infantry Brigade," the official added on the condition of anonymity.
At least 70 rebels and 15 opponents were killed in the fighting, he said.
There was no immediate comment from the rebels.
Shabwa's strategic importance to the battling sides stems from its location: it borders the oil-rich province of Mareb and sits approximately 385 kilometres south of Aden, Yemen's second biggest city.
On Friday, the exiled Yemeni government said it had regained complete control of Aden from the mostly Shiite rebels, marking the biggest victory for the government in months.
Senior government officials are currently in Aden, preparing for the return of the administration of internationally recognized President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi. The rebels forced Hadi, a Sunni, to flee to neighboring Saudi Arabia in March.
Earlier this year, Hadi declared Aden a temporary capital for his administration after the Houthis overran the capital Sana'a.
In late March, Saudi Arabia and fellow Sunni partners started an air campaign in Yemen against the rebels, vowing not to halt the intervention until Hadi is reinstated.