Yemeni forces capture Houthi stronghold in Marib
ADEN // Pro-government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition on Monday captured one of the Houthi rebel’s remaining strongholds in Yemen’s Marib Province, opening the path to a key highway leading to Sanaa.
Backed by land and air support from the coalition, which includes UAE forces, the Yemeni army took over Marib Dam at noon, said Brigadier General Murad Turaiq, head of the Yemeni military in Marib and Bayda provinces.
“Dozens of the coalition forces’ armoured vehicles participated in today’s offensive to retake the dam,” Brig Gen Turaiq told The National. He said they had managed to cut off a supply road to the dam used by the Houthis ahead of the offensive.
Marib Dam, a reservoir south-west of Marib city is strategically important for the coalition, which is trying to restore the internationally-recognised government of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.
The roads around the dam have been used by the Houthis to bring in military reinforcements to hold the remaining areas of Marib Province under rebel control.
The pro-Hadi forces hope the fall of the dam will allow them to drive the rebels from the province and allow them to move on the highway linking Marib with Sanaa via the town of Sirwah.
The coalition forces will also take over the main road to Sirwah and free it from the Houthi rebels, Brig Gen Turaiq said.
Sirwah, west of Marib city, is one of the last strongholds of the Houthis in Marib Province.
The victory at the dam came after the pro-government forces attacked the eastern flank of the dam.
The attack killed at least 22 Houthi rebels, according to local sources.
Marib city is now controlled by troops and tribes loyal to President Hadi, but parts of the province are still in the hands of the rebels and their allies - renegade troops still loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
However, Brig Gen Turaiq said the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and their allies now control only Sirwah, Gida’an, and Al Gawf – less than 15 per cent of the province. The tribes in Marib are fighting alongside the army and the coalition forces, said Brig Gen Turaiq.
“Dozens of fighters from the Murad and Abeed tribes have joined the fight against the Houthis in the battle for the dam. In addition to that, more than 1,000 Yemeni soldiers have also returned from training in Saudi Arabia to help pro-Hadi forces,” according to Brig Gen Turaiq.
Elsewhere on Monday, a coalition spokesman denied any role in an attack reported to have killed 27 people at a wedding party in a Yemeni village on.
A local resident told Reuters that 12 women, eight children and seven men died in the air strike that hit two tents in the village of Al Wahijah, near the Red Sea port of Al Mokha.
Brigadier-General Ahmed Al Asseri said: “There have been no air operations by the coalition in that area for three days. This is totally false news.”
Forces from the UAE and Saudi Arabia have played a leading role in the months-long campaign to liberate Yemen from the Iran-allied Houthis, and have been at the forefront of the Marib offensive which was launched after the deaths of at least 67 coalition troops.
The province saw the heaviest coalition casualties of the campaign so far when a rebel missile hit a camp near Safer on September 4, killing 52 Emirati servicemen, 10 Saudis and five Bahrainis. At least two more Emirati soldiers have died since the Marib offensive was launched.
On Monday, Mr Hadi and his prime minister Khaled Bahah, visited Emirati forces in Aden who are part of Operation Restoring Hope in Yemen.
Mr Bahah congratulated the commander of the UAE force, senior officers and soldiers on the occasion of Eid Al Adha, and praised the participation of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as the sacrifice of their armed forces.
* Additional reporting from Wam