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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Brother of Houthis' top leader believed dead after air strike 

Abdulkhalik Al Houthi took part in the capture of Sanaa

Fighters loyal to Yemeni President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi stand on top of the Al Qahira Castle, located on the highest mountain in the third city of Taez after they seized it from rebel fighters. AFP
Fighters loyal to Yemeni President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi stand on top of the Al Qahira Castle, located on the highest mountain in the third city of Taez after they seized it from rebel fighters. AFP

The brother of top Houthi leader AbdulMalik Al Houthi was reportedly killed in an Arab coalition air strike in Hodeidah on Friday.

Abdulkhalik Al Houthi, himself a high-ranking Houthi commander and the Arab coalition’s sixth most wanted target, was said by local media to have been killed before dawn in a strike in the Bajil district of Hodeidah.

The National couldn’t independently confirm the reports but several military sources in the country said they believed the information to be accurate.

Abdulkhalik, whose nom de guerre among the Houthi was Abu Anas, is the youngest brother of the top Houthi leader. He was reportedly born in January 1984 in Marran district in the northern Saada province of Yemen.

He led fighting in northern Yemen in 2013 and later was involved in the Houthi takeover of the capital Sanaa. In 2014, the United Nations designated Abdulkhalik for sanctions alongside his brother.

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Meanwhile, Yemeni special forces report that they have driven Al Qaeda from most of its strongholds in southern Yemen and killed or captured dozens of its leaders. But the terrorist group still poses a threat through sleeper cells, local commanders say.

This week, an attack by Al Qaeda militants killed five soldiers of the Security Belt forces and injured four others at a checkpoint in Ahwar district of Abyan.

The UAE-trained and supported Security Belt and elite forces have since 2016 been battling Al Qaeda and ISIL in Abyan, Shabwa and Hadramawt provinces in southern Yemen.

A Security Belt commander in Abyan told The National that its forces had paid a high price in the battle against Al Qaeda as well as ISIS, which took advantage of the continuing civil war to establish itself in Yemen. Dozens of soldiers were killed in military operations and Al Qaeda sleeper cells continued to stage ambushes, said the commander, who asked not to be named.

“The Security Belt forces along with the elite forces in Shabwa and Hadramawt have scored big victories against terrorist groups in the southern provinces, which have long been havens for Al Qaeda and ISIL,” said AbdulAziz Badas, a journalist in Abyan who works for the Security Belt.

"In a year and half the Security Belt forces were able to drive Al Qaeda and ISIL out of Abyan, which was considered the main stronghold for them over the past 10 years. Military operations by the Yemeni army under former president Ali Abdullah Saleh failed to drive Al Qaeda out," Mr Badas said.