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14 killed at food factory in first Saudi strikes on Yemen in three months

Air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition resumed 72 hours after the failure of UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait
Picture shows smoke billowing behind buildings following a reported air strike carried out by the Saudi-led coalition that targeted a food factory in the Yemeni capital Sanaa (AFP)

Saudi-led coalition air strikes on a food factory in Yemen's rebel-held capital Sanaa killed 14 workers on Tuesday, medics said.

Factory director Abdullah al-Aqel gave a higher toll of 16 killed and 10 wounded, adding that all the victims were workers.

The Al-Aqel factory, which makes potato chips and is near a military equipment maintenance centre targeted in the raids, was struck during working hours, he added.

The strikes are the first by the Saudi-led coalition in three months, following the suspension of UN-brokered peace talks.

The coalition intervened in March last year after Houthi rebels and allied forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh overran Sanaa on September 2014.

They later tightened their grip on power and forced President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee in February 2015.

Hadi now lives in Riyadh, as do members of his internationally recognised government who travel between Saudi Arabia and Yemen's temporary capital Aden in the south.

Coalition spokesman General Ahmed Assiri confirmed that the air strikes against the rebels had restarted and led to the closure of Sanaa airport, saying warplanes hit military targets "around" the city.

The raids began late on Monday and intensified on Tuesday, residents said.

Assiri said the coalition had respected the truce for three months but had resumed operations because of increased violations by the rebels and the failure of the Kuwait talks.

In July, the rebels rejected a UN peace plan and announced the creation of the governing council whose 10 members they named on Saturday, a move that strengthens their control of Sanaa.

Al-Qaeda forced out

Coalition strikes have also forced al-Qaeda fighters out of a key town in southern Yemen, a security official said on Tuesday.

"Al-Qaeda militants have withdrawn from Azzan, the second city in Shabwa province, after coalition raids targeted their gatherings in the city" on Monday night, the official told AFP.

A resident said by telephone that the militants had retreated northwards and "no longer have a presence" in Azzan.

Coalition warplanes have also targeted Islamic State group militants who have exploited the chaos in the Arabian Peninsula state to expand their presence in south and southeast Yemen.

Al-Qaeda militants are still present elsewhere in Shabwa and in other southern regions, however.

Their withdrawal from Azzan followed a series of coalition air raids against their positions in the town, security officials and residents said.

The coalition has backed government troops who recaptured the southeastern port city of Mukalla in April, a year after it was seized by Al-Qaeda.

Azzan lies on the highway between Shabwa's provincial capital Ataq and Mukalla, capital of the vast desert province of Hadramawt.

Militants had previously seized Azzan in February, retreated in April and later returned to the town.

Officials said that the US military on Thursday killed three Al-Qaeda operatives in a strike in Shabwa.