Coalition declares victory in Marib

The entire Yemeni province of Marib is controlled by coalition forces, military chiefs said yesterday.

Soldiers loyal to Yemen's government walk at the frontline of fighting against Houthi militants in the central province of Marib on Tuesday. Stringer / Reuters
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ADEN // The Yemeni army and the Saudi-led coalition have defeated the Houthi rebels in Marib province, military chiefs said.

The forces fighting to restore President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi were flushing out the final pockets of Houthis rebels on Wednesday morning in Sirwah, west of Marib city.

Brig Gen Ali Saif Al Kaabi, the coalition commander, said large numbers of Houthi rebels and their allies were killed or captured in the final battle for Sirwah.

Witnesses described mass defections from the rebel and militia forces in their last strongholds in Marib.

Coalition forces are now beginning preparations to advance on the capital, Sanaa about 100km away.

General Murad Turaiq, head of the Yemeni military in Marib and Bayda provinces, told The National, it was “game over” for the Houthis.

“The forces are sweeping the mines that the Houthis planted before they fled the area,” he said.

He said the Yemeni and coalition forces would have full control of Al Gofainah, Al Balaq and Sirwah on Wednesday.

Many of the Houthis have fled Sirwah district towards Sanaa province, which the Houthis seized from the internationally recognised government a year ago.

Other rebels have fled into Al Jawf province, which is also under the control of the Houthis.

Since the Arab coalition joined the war in March, most of southern Yemen, including Aden has been recaptured from the Houthis, who hail from Sadaa province in the far north and are backed by the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and Iran.

Marib is the first northern Province, where the Houthis have been fully defeated.

Last week, the pro-Hadi forces retook the coastline and an island along the Bab Al Mandeb Strait, restoring stability to the key waterway at the entrance to the Red Sea, which acts as one of the world’s major shipping routes.

The victory in Marib came after coordinated terrorist attacks in Aden killed 15 coalition soldiers including four Emiratis on Wednesday.

A group claiming to be an affiliate of ISIL said it used car bombs to attack a hotel housing Yemen’s government, a military camp of the Saudi Arabian-led coalition forces and the headquarters of the Emirates Red Crescent.

Military chiefs initially suspected a missile attack by the Houthis and their allies.

But an official from Aden’s main security office, Mohammed Mosaed, said later that the attacks had been suicide raids.

The ISIL group said it had attacked the Qasr Hotel with two cars packed with explosives, and had also hit the “central operations headquarters of the Saudi and Emirati forces”. The group released pictures it said were of the four suicide attackers.

“Four of our brave soldiers have fallen in the line of duty in Aden,” the General Command of the Armed Forces said.

They were Ahmed Khamis Al Hammadi and Mohammed Khalfan Al Seyabi from Abu Dhabi; Ali Khamis Al Ketbi, from Al Ain; and Yousef Salem Al Kaabi, from Fujairah.

The bombings also killed civilians and Yemeni troops.

UAE forces have taken a leading role in driving the Houthis from Aden and southern Yemen.

Prime minister Khaled Bahah and other ministers managed to escape the attack on the hotel in Al Boraiqah district, where the Yemeni government is based.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae