Fighting and air strikes across Yemen; dialogue remains distant

Sun Mar 29, 2015 3:18pm EDT
 
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By Mohammed Mukhashaf and Sami Aboudi

ADEN (Reuters) - Yemeni fighters loyal to the Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi clashed with Iranian-allied Houthi fighters on Sunday in Aden, the absent leader's last major foothold in the country.

Hadi loyalists in the southern port city reported a gunbattle in the central Crater district in which three people were killed, and said they recaptured the airport, which has changed hands several times in recent days.

The Health Ministry, loyal to the Houthi fighters who control the capital, said Saudi-led air strikes had killed 35 people and wounded 88 overnight. The figures could not be independently confirmed.

The Houthi fighters, representing a Shi'ite minority that makes up around a third of Yemen's population, emerged as the most powerful force in the Arabian Peninsula's poorest country last year when they captured the capital Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia has rallied Sunni Muslim Arab countries in an air campaign to support Hadi, who moved to Aden in February and is now in Riyadh after leaving Yemen in the past week.

The fighting has brought civil war to a country that was already sliding into chaos and which had been a battlefield for the secret U.S. drone war against al Qaeda.

While the Houthi fighters and their army allies continued to make gains after the air strikes were first launched early on Thursday, they appeared to suffer reversals on Sunday on three fronts -- in Aden's northern suburbs, in Dhalea province north of the city and in the eastern province of Shabwa.

A Saudi military spokesman said the coalition it leads would step up pressure on the Houthis and their allies in the next few days. "There will be no safe place for the Houthi militia groups," Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri told reporters.   Continued...

 
People stand on a tank that was burnt during clashes on a street in Yemen's southern port city of Aden March 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer