Yemen forces capture last rebel outpost in key province
SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- Yemeni government forces and their allies, including troops from a Saudi-led coalition, on Wednesday captured the last outpost of Shiite rebels in the key Marib province, officials said.
The anti-rebel forces took the town of Sirwah - the last outpost of the rebels known as Houthis in Marib province, and they are currently securing their gains there, according to Col. Ayed al-Moradi, a Yemeni military official.
Sirwah is about 88 kilometers (55 miles) east of the rebel-held capital, Sanaa. The forces' advance on the town had been stalling for weeks in Marib.
Houthis said they repelled attacks amid airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition but Yemen's pro-government satellite TV broadcast footage of bodies and destroyed tanks and armored vehicles from inside Sirwah.
The head of forces in Marib from the United Arab Emirates, which are part of the Saudi-led coalition, also confirmed the town's fall. Emirati Brig. Gen. Ali Saif al-Kaabi told the satellite TV channel that the Marib province is now under anti-Houthi forces' control.
According to medical officials, 70 Houthis and more than 50 pro-government fighters were killed in three days of fighting over the town. Witnesses in the town said few Houthi pockets still remain in Sirwah.
The anti-rebel alliance's goal is to retake the Houthi-held capital, which the rebels captured a year ago, but that still remains a long and difficult challenge.
From Marib, the anti-Houthi forces plan to advance in two directions, said al-Moradi. One push will be to the west to Khawlan, a mountainous region on the way to Sanaa, and the other push will be in another direction, through Jawf province, he said.
Obstacles along the road west of Marib include more than 10,000 land mines planted by the Houthis, according to another Yemeni military official. The pro-government forces have removed about 3,000 of them as of Tuesday evening, he said.
The military official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media while witnesses in Sirwah declined to give their names for fear of reprisals.
In another development Wednesday, the Houthi-run SABA news agency said rebel fighters targeted and hit a warship from the Saudi-led coalition that was stationed in Bab al-Mandab Strait, the strategic southern entrance to the Red Sea and the gateway to the Suez Canal.
The report could not be independently confirmed late Wednesday and coalition officials were not available for comment.