Houthi forces capture air base near Aden

The capture sparked heavy fighting between Houthi rebels and defenders loyal to Yemen President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi

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Houthi forces backed by allied army units attacked a big air base about 60 km north of Aden on Wednesday, triggering heavy fighting with defenders loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Reuters news agency quoted security sources and residents as saying.

The fighting at the al-Anad facility was also reported by media affiliated with the Iranian-backed Houthi movement, which has taken over much of the north of the country in recent months and contests U.S.-allied Hadi's legitimacy as head of state.

The Houthis’ al-Masira television station later said the Houthis had captured the base, but there was no independent confirmation of that report.

Infographic: Yemen control

Infographic: Yemen control
Infographic: Yemen control

The fighting suggests the Houthis are making steady progress in a push south toward Aden seen by many Yemenis as an attempt to unseat Hadi, who is based in the city and seen by the Shiite Muslim group as a stooge of Gulf Arabs and the West, Reuters reported.

Al-Anad, held by Hadi's forces up until now in the country's worsening conflict, is believed to house a number of military aircraft that Hadi could call on in defense of Aden, but its fall to the Houthis would deprive him of their use.

The base has also housed an intelligence post for monitoring the Yemeni affiliate of Al0Qaeda, or AQAP, that is normally manned in part by U.S. personnel.

But the United States last week evacuated its remaining personnel from Yemen, including about 100 special operations forces, because of deteriorating security. The last major U.S. military contingent in Yemen had been stationed at al-Anad, according to U.S. national security sources.

(With Reuters)

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