Yemen: Tribal forces take key Houthi supply route in Marib

Bitter fighting in mountainous terrain characterises the struggle of the Marib tribes

(FILES) In this file photo a combatant mans a heavy machine gun as forces loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed government clash with Huthi rebel fighters around the strategic government-held "Mas Camp" military base, in al-Jadaan area about 50 kilometres northwest of Marib in central Yemen, on November 22, 2020.  Key US lawmakers on January 11, 2021 urged a quick reversal of outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's branding of Yemen's Huthis as a terrorist group, saying he had worsened a humanitarian crisis. "The designation of the Huthis as a terrorist organization is a death sentence for thousands of Yemenis", said Senator Chris Murphy, a prominent member of President-elect Biden's Democratic Party. "It will cut off humanitarian aid, make peace talks nearly impossible and empower Iran. Biden should reverse this policy on day one," he wrote on Twitter.
 / AFP / -
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Twenty-seven Houthi fighters were killed and dozens injured in fierce fighting with Murad tribesmen in Marib province, northern Yemen, on Tuesday.

The Murad tribesmen are aligned with the internationally recognised Yemeni government and have held back numerous offensives by Iran-backed Houthi militias in recent years.

"Our tribe has sacrificed 3,000 honoured martyrs for the sake of defending Marib

During the battle, which raged in the early hours of Tuesday, Murad tribal fighters drove the Houthi militias out of strategic sites north and east of Al Rahbah district, according to Sheikh Mohammed Al Qardaei, a prominent sheikh and military commander in the Murad tribe.

"Last week, our fighters stormed a major site controlled by the militias in Al Hadba, advancing across the mountainous chain of Al Kharaba, through which we gained control over the Houthi supply route linking Al Rahbah district with Najed Al Majmaah, southern Marib city," Sheikh Mohammed told The National.

“Taking control over the mountains of Al Quraidah and Al Awshal was crucial because these strategic mountains are overlooking major sites and supply routes still under Houthi control in the southern terrain of Marib,” Sheikh Mohammed said. His fighters are gearing up for an imminent offensive to cut the Houthi supply route in Wadi Baqthah, south-western Marib city, he said.

"Air support from the Saudi-led coalition launched more than five air strikes at Houthi military staging areas in Jabal Murad mountain, southern Marib, on Tuesday evening," Mustafa Al Baydhani a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committee in Southern Marib, told The National.

Fighters in Murad hail from a block of local tribes based on the south-western

tip of Marib province in north Yemen. They took the lead to defend their tribal homeland, prior to the intervention of the Saudi-led coalition, which launched Operation Decisive Storm in March 2015.

In the wake of the national army’s collapse and a doomed tribal uprising against the Houthis by the Al Awad tribes in Al Byadha in February 2020, Murad tribes gathered in Al Rahbah, their stronghold in southern Marib, resolving to fight the Houthis to the last man.

"Our tribe has sacrificed 3,000 honoured martyrs for the sake of defending the dignity of its people and the republican regime in Yemen," Sheikh Ahmed Al Muradi told The National in November last year.

Since February, Iran-backed Houthi militias have been desperately pushing towards Marib city in northern Sanaa, in a bid to take control of oil fields and the oil refinery in the province.