Ye­men loy­al­ists re­take south­ern pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal from Shi­ite rebels


Forces loyal to Ye­men’s ex­iled gov­ern­ment re­cap­tured a south­ern pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal from Shi­ite rebels and their al­lies on Sun­day as they pressed an ad­vance from sec­ond city Aden.

Zin­jibar, cap­i­tal of Abyan province, had been held by troops of the rene­gade 15th Brigade which re­mains loyal to ousted strong­man Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh who is al­lied with the rebels.

Troops en­tered the coastal town, some 50 kilo­me­ters (30 miles) east of Aden, af­ter over­run­ning the brigade’s bar­racks out­side with sup­port from Saudi-led air strikes, mil­i­tary sources said.

Res­i­dents of Zin­jibar forced out by fight­ing that dev­as­tated their city also re­turned Sun­day to take stock of the dam­age, a re­lief of­fi­cial said.

But many, in­clud­ing loy­al­ist fight­ers, lost their lives as they treaded on mines planted by the rebels be­fore they with­drew from the city.

At least 19 peo­ple were killed and 163 wounded on Satur­day and Sun­day in Zin­jibar and the sur­round­ing area, Aden health chief Al-Khader Laswar told AFP.

Mines and un­ex­ploded ord­nance have caused sim­i­larly high death tolls in Aden it­self since the rebels’ pull­out last month, with dozens of civil­ians re­ported killed and hun­dreds wounded.

Zin­jibar is the third south­ern pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal from which the rebels have been driven out.

The loy­al­ists se­cured Aden in mid-July and Lahj pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal Huta on Aug. 4.

Aden was the last refuge of Pres­i­dent Abedrabbo Man­sour Hadi be­fore he fled into ex­ile in neigh­bor­ing Saudi Ara­bia in March.

Riyadh has since led a bomb­ing cam­paign and air and sea block­ade against the Iran-backed rebels and their al­lies in a bid to re­store his au­thor­ity.

It has also pro­vided train­ing and equip­ment to loy­al­ist forces and ear­lier this month re­port­edly de­ployed hun­dreds of ground troops to Aden.

The cap­ture of Zin­jibar came three days af­ter tribal and mil­i­tary sources said Saudi Ara­bia sent tanks, ar­mored ve­hi­cles and per­son­nel car­ri­ers to back the loy­al­ist forces.

Hun­dreds of Ye­meni sol­diers trained in the oil-rich king­dom were also sent to bol­ster Hadi’s forces, the sources said on Thurs­day.

The re­cap­ture of Zin­jibar is ex­pected to strengthen the po­si­tion of loy­al­ist forces as they ex­pand their zone of con­trol in south­ern Ye­men and could pave the way for an at­tempt to pur­sue rebels fur­ther north.

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