Soldiers desert brigade loyal to Yemen’s ousted leader Saleh

Yemeni soldiers man a checkpoint in al-Mahfad in the southern Yemeni province of Abyan May 23, 2014. (Reuters)

Several Yemeni soldiers on Friday have deserted from the 33rd brigade, which is one of the many units loyal to Yemen's ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, sources told Al Arabiya News Channel.

The incident is the latest defection after a Yemeni military brigade in the southern city of Taiz on Thursday rebelled against its leader, who was loyal to Saleh.

An autocrat who ruled Yemen for more than 30 years until he was ousted in the sweeping 2011 Arab Spring uprising, Saleh enjoys the support of some of the country’s strongest military units – including the Republican Guards - who now fight alongside the Houthis.

Meanwhile on Friday, Houthi fighters and forces allied to Saleh entered the southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwa on Friday through the central province of Bayda, extending their reach into the south, according to tribal sources.

On the same day, Saleh sent forces loyal to him to block the road connecting the southern port city of Aden  - one of the only areas still under the control of the internationally-recognized government - and the sea port city of Mukalla several hundred kilometers away, Al Arabiya News Channel reported Friday.

But Saudi Arabia, who is leading an Arab coalition entitled Operation "Decisive Storm" against the Houthis, continued on Friday to strike the rebel-held capital of Sanaa and the Shiite Muslim group’s northern heartland on Friday, in a move to stop the militia establishing its rule across the country.

Residents said aircraft targeted Republican Guards bases around Sanaa, including one near the presidential compound in a southern district, around dawn and also struck near a military installation that houses missiles.

Although Saleh resigned in 2012 in a deal broken by the Gulf allies, since then, he is believed to have worked behind the scenes to stage a comeback, after forging an alliance with the Houthis who once opposed his regime.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47