Yemen militia says it is besieging rebels at strategic base

2015-04-18 22:02
File: AFP

File: AFP

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Sanaa - Militiamen loyal to Yemen's embattled president besieged an air base once crucial to the US drone program targeting al-Qaeda militants in the country, trying to dislodge the Shiite rebels holding the complex, a spokesperson said.

Qa'ed Nasser, a spokesman for the pro-Hadi militia, said his fighters launched several attacks on the Al-Annad air base amid airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition targeting the rebels, known as Houthis. He said that the Houthis have been forced to abandon parts of the base due to the attacks.

Houthi rebels declined to comment on the fighting at the base, only 60km away from Aden, the port city where President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi had established a temporary capital before fleeing the country.

The base was crucial in the US drone campaign against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which America considers to be the most dangerous branch of the terror group. American and European military advisers there also offered logistical in its fight against the al-Qaeda group, which holds territory in eastern Yemen and has claimed directed the recent attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

US operations against the militants have been scaled back dramatically amid the chaos in Yemen. US officials have said CIA drone strikes will continue in the country, though there will be fewer of them. The agency's ability to collect intelligence on the ground in Yemen, while not completely gone, is also much diminished.

About 100 US military advisers based at Al-Annad withdrew last month due to deteriorating security conditions.

Fighting between the rebels and forces loyal to Hadi intensified in March, with the Saudi-led coalition of majority Sunni countries in the region launching the airstrikes on 26 March.

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