27 Dead in Yemen Fighting

27 Dead in Yemen Fighting27 Dead in Yemen Fighting

At least 27 people were killed in the Yemeni city of Taez in clashes between loyalist forces and rebels as well as Saudi-led coalition air raids, medical sources said Saturday.

Residents said the city in southwest Yemen was rocked by explosions and gunfire overnight as the coalition-backed forces of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi battled Houthi Shiite rebels.

Nineteen rebels, four soldiers of a mechanized army unit loyal to the president and four other pro-Hadi fighters were killed, a medical source told AFP.

On Friday, coalition warplanes carried out heavy air strikes on a presidential palace in Taez, Yemen’s third largest city, and of positions held by special forces units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh who has sided with the Houthis.

Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia last month as the Houthis closed in on his refuge in the southern city of Aden, having advanced from their stronghold in northern Yemen last year to seize the capital Sanaa.

Residents and security sources said rival fighters clashed Friday night in districts of Aden, while pro-Hadi forces with the support of air strikes held off rebels battling for the past week for control of Aden’s refinery, 15 kilometers (nine miles) to the west of the port city.

  Key Military Camp Seized

Al-Qaeda militants have taken control of a strategic military camp in the city of Mukalla in southeastern Yemen, seizing tanks, artillery and other heavy weapons.

The takeover of the base has established Al-Qaeda’s full control of Mukalla after they seized the city’s airport on Thursday, RT reported.

Residents of Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt province, said the army camp fell into the Islamists’ hands “without resistance.”

The base, loyal to exiled Yemeni president Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, was the last military facility in the city taken over by the Sunni extremists.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) attacked Mukalla, capitalizing on the chaos in the country, which is being bombarded by Saudi Arabia in an attempt to suppress the Houthi rebels fighting against the supporters of Hadi.

The jihadists began their assault on April 2, quickly seizing key installations in the city and freeing over 300 prisoners, including prominent local terrorist leader, Khaled Batarfi.

  Former President Defiant

Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh said on Friday he would not leave the country, dismissing reports in the (Persian) Gulf Arab media that he was seeking a safe exit as Saudi Arabian war planes bomb troops loyal to him and their Houthi militia allies.

The United Nations, meanwhile, said about 150,000 people had been driven from their homes by three weeks of air strikes and ground fighting and more than 750 people killed.

Many schools, hospitals and mosques had been damaged or destroyed in the conflict, it said, Reuters reported.

But military sources have said some army units loyal to Saleh have defected and now support Hadi.

Saudi-owned Arabiya TV, citing a (Persian) Gulf official, said representatives of Saleh had visited Arab capitals and floated an initiative for him and his family to leave safely.

Saleh scoffed at the report.