Pro-Hadi loyalists inch closer to Sanaa

Published August 11th, 2015 - 09:33 GMT

Loyalist fighters opposed to Yemen’s dominant Houthi movement seized four districts in the central province of Ibb on Monday, residents and local officials said, bringing the armed resistance closer to the group’s stronghold in the capital Sanaa.

Tribal gunmen and Sunni militias loyal to Yemen’s exiled government took control of the areas amid heavy clashes with the Shiite Houthis, in the latest of a series of northward gains with the backing of Gulf Arab airstrikes and weapons.

The northernmost district overrun, Al-Radma, is 125 km from Sanaa, which was conquered by the Iran-allied Houthis in September in what they called a revolution against corrupt officials backed by the West.

A Saudi-led Arab military coalition began a bombing campaign against the Houthis on March 26 to restore the exiled government of Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi and fend off what they see as Iranian influence in their backyard.

Deadlocked for almost four months, the war has tipped somewhat to the advantage of the Houthis’ opponents, with their seizure of Aden last month and advance into nearby areas with the help of tanks and heavy artillery shipped by the United Arab Emirates.

The southern fighters battled Houthi forces on Monday in the southern city of Lawdar, one of the last Houthi strongholds in Abyan province.

On Sunday, pro-government fighters recaptured Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, after three days of intense fighting, military officials said.

Officials said the battle for Zinjibar saw the deployment of modern tanks and fighting vehicles, which have significantly strengthened the pro-government troops.

Meanwhile, Houthi-linked gunmen abducted ten members of the Islamist Al-Islah party in the city, including a former government minister and women, relatives said.

Their claims came as the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, visited the Old City of Sanaa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After touring damaged buildings and a hospital, Maurer told reporters he had come to Yemen for a “view on the impact of the recent warfare”.

Sanaa’s Old City has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years and was a major center for the propagation of Islam, boasting more than 100 mosques, 14 public baths and more than 6,000 pre-11th century houses.

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