Arab World

Yemeni loyalists seize Red Sea port of Mokha


MOKHA:Yemeni government forces captured on Monday the port of Mokha as they pushed to oust Huthi rebels from the Red Sea coastline, an AFP journalist said.

Government forces were combing the port, a journalist accompanying the troops said, almost three weeks after the loyalists launched an offensive against the Shiite insurgents and their allies on Yemen s southwestern coast.

An official statement said government forces recaptured the whole city, but a military commander in the field told AFP that loyalists were still fighting the rebels on the southern outskirts of Mokha.

Forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi launched a vast offensive on January 7 to retake the Dhubab district overlooking the Bab al-Mandab strait, a key maritime route connecting the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Warplanes and Apache attack helicopters from a Saudi-led Arab coalition have been pounding the rebels in support of pro-Hadi forces, military sources said.

The rebel s media arm claimed however that insurgent fighters repelled loyalist troops as they advanced on the village of Jadid, some 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) south of Mokha.

More than 150 fighters from both sides have been killed in the battle for the coastline since the government offensive was launched on January 7. 

Huthis have controlled Mokha since they overran the capital Sanaa in September 2014 and advanced on other regions aided by troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The coalition mounted a military campaign against the rebels in March 2015 as insurgents closed in on Hadi in his refuge in the southern city of Aden and forced him to seek exile in Riyadh.

Loyalists have since drove rebels out of five southern provinces, including Aden. 

But despite its massively superior firepower, the rebels and their allies still control Sanaa and much of the central and northern highlands, as well most of the 450-kilometre (280-mile) Red Sea coast.

United Nations peace envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed visited Sanaa on Sunday for talks and to push a peace plan that would restore a ceasefire and lead to a political transition in the country.

The plan would lead to a political transition under which Hadi s powers would be significantly reduced.

Seven ceasefires brokered by the United Nations have failed and UN-backed peace talks have repeatedly broken down.

The World Health Organization says that more than 7,400 people have been killed since the coalition intervention began.

A UN spokesman has said the civilian death toll alone could top 10,000.

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