Houthis believed to have moved Iranian missile expert's body across Yemeni capital

Tehran puts pressure on anti-government allies to return remains of adviser killed by a Saudi-led coalition air strike near Sanaa

Houthi fighters pose for a photo in front of a damaged building on a street in Sanaa on December 6, 2017. Khaled Abdullah / Reuters
Houthi fighters pose for a photo in front of a damaged building on a street in Sanaa on December 6, 2017. Khaled Abdullah / Reuters

Yemen's Houthi rebels are believed to have moved the corpse of an Iranian missile adviser across the capital on Tuesday after pressure from Tehran to repatriate his remains.

The expert was killed on Sunday in a Saudi-led coalition air strike on Nehem, an area in the district of Arhab, to the east of Sanaa, Yemen's capital.

The Houthis, who have long been supported by Iran, are fighting pro-government forces that are backed by a coalition of Arab states.

Military vehicles and rebel fighters lined the road from the 48th hospital in Sanaa's southern Al Sawad area to Al Muayad hospital in the northern Al Geraf area.


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"We couldn't know what is going on there, but some colleagues whispered that the Houthis were tightening security along the road because they transferred the corpses of high-ranking figures — among them the corpse of an Iranian engineer," a Sanaa-based journalist said on Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's Al Arabiya English-language news site said a source close to the rebels had confirmed that Tehran had exerted pressure on them to send the remains to Iran. The Houthis have so far been unable to do so as the coalition controls the airspace above the rebel-held capital.

The situation in the rebel-held capital remains tense after recent clashes between the Houthis and supporters of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, their former allies. Rebel fighters killed Saleh earlier this month and have since been going after his supporters.

On Tuesday, the Russian foreign ministry said Moscow had halted its diplomatic presence in the country and that its embassy staff had left Yemen in response to the developments in Sanaa.

"The Russian ambassador and some of the Russian diplomatic corps accredited in Yemen will carry out their duties in Riyadh," said Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

Russian ambassador Vladimir Dedushkin had already been working from Riyadh since last year and Moscow warned last week that Yemen risks spiralling into "military-political chaos".

Elsewhere on Tuesday, UAE-backed government security forces stormed an extremist hideout in Aden province's Al Mansoora district, killing three militants and injuring three others, the spokesman for Aden police, Abdulrahman Al Nakeeb, told The National.

He said three members of the security forces were injured when one of the extremists blew himself up and others started shooting at them.

The government forces found a weapons and ammunition factory used to store — among other things — explosives-rigged cars, mortar shells, anti-tank mines and suicide belts, he added.

It was not clear what group the militants belonged to but both ISIL and Al Qaeda's affiliates in Yemen have taken advantage of a security vacuum created by the ongoing war between the Houthis and pro-government forces to make gains.

Later in the day, gunmen shot and killed a Muslim cleric in front of his home in Aden, the seventh such killing of a cleric in the past three months, officials said, according to Associated Press. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

In the southwestern province of Hodeidah, meanwhile, the Yemeni army said the Saudi-led coalition had struck vehicles carrying senior Houthi fighters, killing several.

Among those killed in the strike on Al Haiys district, to the south of Hodeidah city, were Ali Mohammed Suliman Hulaisi and Nadi Hameed Haikal, who were responsible for setting up a significant rebel missile based in the province, a military-run news site said.

A separate air strike killed Houthi rebel Abu Ramah, who leads the militants in Al Gah area of Al Haiys, along with some of his guards, Khalil Al Zikri from the Yemeni army's moral guidance department told The National.

Sixteen rebels were also killed in coalition strikes on the villages of Al Fazah and Al Haiymah in the south of Hodeidah province, he added.

Updated: December 12, 2017 11:37 PM


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