Local Yemeni tribes on Wednesday recaptured the strategic district of Al Rahbah in southern Marib from Iran-backed Houthi insurgents.
The battle lasted for more than 16 hours, tribal leader Sheikh Mohammed Al Qardaei Al Muradi told The National.
Marib is the last stronghold of the internationally-recognised Yemeni government in northern Yemen.
“We liberated the strategic district of Al Rahbah after fierce battles that erupted before dawn,” Sheikh Mohammed, head of the Murad tribes, said in a phone interview. Dozens of Houthi fighters were killed and 15 were arrested.
Sheikh Mohammed leads the anti-Houthi tribal resistance in oil-rich Marib.
“Al Rahbah district is now fully secured and our fighters have taken control over Al Ramad mountain, the last mountain overlooking the main road which links the province of Marib with the province of Al Bayda,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
Al Rahbah is a strategic area as it links three governorates: Marib, Sanaa and Thamar. It is the stronghold of the powerful Murad tribes who are known for their staunch position against the Houthi movement.
The enmity between the Murad tribes and the Houthis goes back to the early twentieth century. Yehya Hamid Al Dine, the Zaidi Imam of the Mutawakkilite kingdom which ruled northern Yemen between 1918 and 1962, was killed in 1948 by Ali Naser Al Qardaei, the prominent tribal leader and sheikh of the Murad tribes.
The block of local tribes based in the south-western tip of Yemen took the lead to defend their homeland, even before the coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched Operation Decisive Storm in March 2015 to restore the legitimate government, which was overthrown by the Houthis.
The Murad tribes eventually succeeded in pushing the Houthis back to the northern swathes of Sanaa in northern Yemen.
“Our men have never been late to fulfil the call of duty. We don’t fight for the sake of power but we fight for the sake of our land and our dignity,” Sheikh Mohammed told The National earlier this year.
The Murad tribes have lost nearly three thousand fighters in battle against the Houthis since 2015, said Sheikh Mohammed.