CAIRO (AP) — Yemeni government troops were consolidating control of the southern port city of Aden on Friday, with only a few “terrorist pockets” of Shiite rebels remaining to be cleared out, according to a Yemeni government spokesman.
Ragah Badie said Friday that Aden was under a security lockdown as troops try to capture a senior rebel leader, Abdul-Khaliq al-Houthi. Aden’s port, he said, will be opened today to receive humanitarian aid ships that are much needed in the conflict-torn nation, where over 80 percent of the population needs assistance, according to the United Nations.
Some Yemenis who have fled the fighting, which intensified in March when the Saudi-led coalition launched its campaign against the rebels, are now returning to their homes in Mualla and Crater, according to security officials and eye witnesses.
Meanwhile, an exiled official in Saudi Arabia denied reports that exiled Yemeni ministers had landed in Aden, adding that the situation is still “too fragile” to set a return date for them now.
Military officials also said government forces will begin pushing north within two days into territory controlled by the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis. Thus far into the Saudi-backed Yemeni government offensive known as Golden Arrow, at least 150 people have been killed, according to medical sources and government and Houthi officials.
The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to reporters.
Yemen’s conflict pits the Iran-allied Houthis and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against an array of forces, including southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants as well as loyalists of exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is backed internationally.
The United Nations said Tuesday that the civilian death toll in more than three months of violence has risen to 1,670.