Yemeni forces poised to clear district in rebel stronghold

Bakem is besieged by troops and will be the first district in Saada to be declared free of rebel fighters

A Yemeni pro-government fighter fires a recoilless rocket launcher weapon as Saudi and Emirati supported forces take over Huthi bases on the frontline of Kirsh between the province of Taez and Lahj, southwestern Yemen, on July 1, 2018. The United Arab Emirates on Sunday announced it had halted the offensive it is backing against Huthi rebels in Yemen's port city of Hodeida to give a chance to UN diplomatic efforts.
 / AFP / Saleh Al-OBEIDI
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Yemeni troops say they are poised to clear Houthi fighters from one district of the rebels' northern stronghold after imposing a siege.

Colonel Sami Al Qoubati, a commander in the Border Guards 5th Brigade, said troops were besieging Bakem district from all sides after combing surrounding areas on Saturday and seizing rebel weapons stores.

"The weapons storage contained different types of arms including RPGs and mortars, in addition to ammunition caches and Katyusha rocket launchers," Col Al Qoubati told the armed forces media centre.

Bakem would be the first district in Saada to be declared free of rebel fighters, he said.

"We are going to storm the centre of the district, which is considered the last stronghold for the Houthi militia in Bakem," Mohammed Al Sallal, a soldier fighting in Saada, told The National.

The operation in Bakem comes as government forces, who are backed by the Arab Coalition led by Saudi Arabia and including the UAE, opened a sixth front against the rebels in Saada.

Col Mohammed Al Amlassi, commander of the Border Guards 9th Brigade, said the army had captured the strategic mountain range of Al Rab'a in Hashwa district.
"By liberating these areas, army forces have opened the sixth front in the province of Saada and begun to encircle the province from the east," Col Al Amlassi said in a report carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. 
He said 19 Houthi fighters were killed in fighting for control of the mountain range, which lasted about nine hours, while large numbers had fled. Soldiers recovered large quantities of weapons and ammunition and captured 21 rebels.
In south-east Yemen, government forces made gains against Houthi rebels in Bayda province on Sunday, the military-run 26 September news website reported.

The army and militias liberated areas in Wadi Al Fadhha in Al Malagem district after fierce clashes in which 30 Houthi fighters were killed, Mohamed Al Homaikani, a leader of the pro-government resistance forces in Bayda, told The National.


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