Yemen government forces push into strategic coastal city


Hadi loyalists kick Houthis out and take control of Red Sea coast city of al-Mokha, military officials said

Yemeni loyalist forces' tanks patrol highway in the Red Sea port town of Mocha on January 20, 2017 (AFP)
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Last update: 
Monday 23 January 2017 15:05 UTC

Yemeni army forces backed by Gulf states fought their way into the Red Sea coast city of al-Mokha on Monday, military officials said, pushing out the Houthi militia.

A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen's civil war nearly two years ago to back President Abd-Rabbuh Hadi after he was kicked out of the capital Sanaa by Houthi forces.

Fighters  loyal to Hadi entered the port area on Mokha's southwestern edge, an army official said.

"Houthi forces began withdrawing this morning, and the city is nearly abandoned after most of its residents departed," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The city and the port under the control of national army".

A spokesman for rival army forces fighting for the Houthis could not be immediately reached for comment.

At least 10,000 people have died in the Yemeni conflict, which has unleashed a humanitarian crisis in the already desperately poor Arabian Peninsula country.

While government forces in the south and east nominally hold most of Yemen's territory, Hadi has struggled to enforce state authority among various militias, militants and tribes. The Houthis control most of Yemen's population centres in the northwest including Sanaa.

Army forces and a group of militias called the Southern Resistance launched an offensive on the Red Sea coast this month to deprive the Houthis of ports and to isolate them in the inland capital.

The smaller coastal town of al-Dhubab has been recaptured in the thrust, which has been backed by scores of air strikes and a small contingent of troops and tanks from the United Arab Emirates.

Gulf Arab countries are concerned the Houthis are a proxy for their arch-rival Iran - a charge Tehran denies.

They and Hadi's government say their campaign aims to protect the Bab al-Mandeb strait, the strategic waterway at the foot of the Red Sea through which nearly 4 million barrels of oil are shipped daily to Europe, the United States and Asia.