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Saudi-led Arab coali­tion troops get toe­hold in Ye­men

- By Ahmed Al-Haj As­so­ci­ated Press

SANAA, Ye­men — With he­li­copter gun­ships hov­er­ing over­head, at least 20 troops from a Saudi-led Arab coali­tion, in­clud­ing Ye­meni ex­pa­tri­ates, came ashore Sun­day in the south­ern port city of Aden on what mil­i­tary of­fi­cials called a “re­con­nais­sance” mission, as fight­ing raged be­tween Ira­nian-backed Shi­ite rebels and forces loyal to the na­tion’s ex­iled pres­i­dent.

The land­ing was the first of its kind since the start of the Saudi-led air cam­paign against the rebels and their al­lies — forces loyal to ousted Pres­i­dent Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh — who have cap­tured most of north­ern Ye­men and marched on south­ern prov­inces.

The ob­jec­tive of the land­ing was not clear, but Ye­meni mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said the coali­tion troops would at­tempt to bet­ter or­ga­nize and train forces loyal to the coun­try’s in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized leader, Pres­i­dent Abed Rabbo Man­sour Hadi, as well as iden­tify an area that could serve as a “green zone” from which Hadi and his gov­ern­ment could op­er­ate when they re­turn to Ye­men.

At the top of that list, said the of­fi­cials, is the al-Bure- qah area west of Aden, which stretches for about 10 miles along the coast and is home to a ma­jor oil re­fin­ery and large fuel tanks.

The West­ern-backed Hadi fled Aden to neigh­bor­ing Saudi Ara­bia in March.

Saudi mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity of­fi­cials have re­peat­edly said a ground op­er­a­tion would fol­low the Saudi-led air cam­paign that be­gan March 26, af­ter the mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the rebels known as the Houthis and their al­lies had been suf­fi­ciently weak­ened.

On Sun­day, the Ye­meni of­fi­cials said that stream­lin­ing the mili­ti­a­men fight­ing the Houthis in Aden was a key step to­ward es­tab­lish­ing a co­her­ent force to which a coali­tion ex­pe­di­tion in Aden could lend sup­port.

 ?? SALEH AL-OBEIDI/GETTY-AFP ?? Smoke bil­lows as sup­port­ers of ex­iled Ye­meni Pres­i­dent Abed Rabbo Man­sour Hadi fight Shi­ite Houthis in Aden.
SALEH AL-OBEIDI/GETTY-AFP Smoke bil­lows as sup­port­ers of ex­iled Ye­meni Pres­i­dent Abed Rabbo Man­sour Hadi fight Shi­ite Houthis in Aden.

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