Mines slow ad­vance by Ye­men loy­al­ists

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

ADEN: Pro-gov­ern­ment forces in Ye­men pressed their ad­vance yes­ter­day to re­cap­ture the south­west­ern prov­ince of Taez but were slowed by land­mines planted by Shi­ite rebels, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said. Gov­ern­ment forces backed by air and ground sup­port from a Saudi-led coali­tion launched an all­out of­fen­sive last week to push the Iran­backed rebels out of Taez and break the siege of loy­al­ists in its provin­cial cap­i­tal. “We have ad­vanced af­ter hav­ing cleared and de­stroyed a large quan­tity of anti-per­son­nel and anti-tank mines planted by the Houthi rebels and their al­lies” amongst rene­gade troops loyal to for­mer pres­i­dent Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh, a mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said.

Troops and al­lied Pop­u­lar Re­sis­tance fight­ers had ad­vanced to­wards Rahida, the prov­ince’s sec­ond-largest city, on the road link­ing main southern city Aden with Taez, the of­fi­cial said. Four Houthis were killed and two oth­ers cap­tured in an am­bush by loy­al­ists that tar­geted two rebel pa­trols south of Rahida, he said. A Ye­meni com­man­der con­firmed that mines were ham­per­ing the progress of gov­ern­ment forces and had caused ca­su­al­ties among fight­ers, with­out pro­vid­ing any fig­ures.

Loy­al­ist forces were backed by sig­nif­i­cant re­in­force­ments from the Saudi-led coali­tion which in­ter­vened in March in sup­port of Pres­i­dent Abedrabbo Man­sour Hadi. Break­ing the siege of Taez is seen as cru­cial for the re­cap­ture of other cen­tral prov­inces and for open­ing the way to the rebel-held cap­i­tal Sanaa far­ther north. It is also im­por­tant for se­cur­ing the south, where loy­al­ists have re­taken five prov­inces from the rebels since July, in­clud­ing Aden, where Hadi has set up base.

PM Ar­rives on East­ern Front

Prime Min­is­ter Khaled Ba­hah had mean­while ar­rived in the city of Marib, 140 km east of Sanaa, a gov­ern­ment source said yes­ter­day. He was to meet with com­man­ders of loy­al­ist troops there who have been try­ing to re­take the prov­ince since midSeptem­ber. Loy­al­ists con­trol Marib city but have so far failed to se­cure the rest of the prov­ince, the source of much of Ye­men’s oil out­put. Ba­hah ar­rived from the United Arab Emi­rates, a key coali­tion mem­ber, and was ac­com­pa­nied by sev­eral se­nior of­fi­cials in­clud­ing the in­te­rior and oil min­is­ters, the source said.

Hadi re­turned from ex­ile in Saudi Ara­bia on Tues­day as the of­fen­sive against the Huthis and their al­lies got un­der way. Diplo­mat­i­cally, ef­forts were con­tin­u­ing to pre­pare for UN-spon­sored peace talks ex­pected to take place this month in Geneva. The rebel-con­trolled sa­banews.net re­ported that a rebel del­e­ga­tion trav­elled to neu­tral Oman late on Satur­day to meet with the UN en­voy to Ye­men, Is­mail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who vis­ited key Houthi-backer Iran in re­cent days.

The talks in Mus­cat be­tween the rebels and the UN en­voy should fo­cus on the “agenda of the di­a­logue” in Geneva, said Abul­malek Al-Mikhlafi, who will head the gov­ern­ment’s del­e­ga­tion to Switzer­land. He ac­cused the Houthis of “mil­i­tary es­ca­la­tion” in Taez and of “buy­ing time” ahead of the talks. “They have not yet sub­mit­ted the names of their ne­go­tia­tors,” Mikhlafi told AFP. The Geneva talks should fo­cus on “find­ing a mech­a­nism to ap­ply UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 2216” which calls for a ne­go­ti­ated with­drawal by the rebels from key cities and a sur­ren­der of all heavy weapons to the state, Mikhlafi said. The United Na­tions says more than 5,700 peo­ple have been killed since the Saudi-led in­ter­ven­tion be­gan in March, nearly half of them civil­ians. UN ef­forts have re­peat­edly failed to re­solve the con­flict and no date has yet been set for this month’s awaited talks. — AFP

SADAD, Syria: Syr­ian chil­dren play with a tyre near old am­mu­ni­tion on Nov 14, 2015 in this Chris­tian town near Mahin, where Syr­ian pro-gov­ern­ment forces are fight­ing the Is­lamic State group in Homs prov­ince. — AFP

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