Yemen loyalists advance near rebel-besieged Taez

 12 Mar 2016 - 0:00

Yemen loyalists advance near rebel-besieged Taez
Yemeni security forces inspect unexploded ordnance confiscated from the Shiite Huthi rebels and militant extremists, as they prepare to neutralise the mines and explosives in the desert of al-Alam, east of the southern port city of Aden, on March 10, 2016. AFP / SALEH AL-OBEIDI


Aden: Yemeni pro-government forces on Friday gained ground around third city Taez which has been under rebel siege for several months, an official said.

The loyalists backed by a Saudi-led military coalition took back areas in the western and southern suburbs of the city, its governor Ali al-Maamari said.

They "reopened key roads that the Huthis (Iran-backed Shiite rebels) had been blocking for nine months," said the governor, who lives in exile in Saudi Arabia.

That should allow for humanitarian and medical aid to reach the city's around 200,000 besieged inhabitants, he said.

A source in the army's 35th brigade confirmed that loyalists had seized Al-Misrakh area to the south of Taez city after heavy fighting that led to several deaths over the past days.

Dozens of military vehicles carried rebel fighters out of the western suburb of Taez towards the city of Hodeida on the Red Sea, witnesses said.

The coastal city remains under the control of the insurgents and their allies, army units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Taez is located between the rebel-held capital Sanaa and the southern port city of Aden, which loyalists took back from the Huthis in July.

In November, forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi announced a major offensive to try to break the siege on Taez.

More than 6,100 people have died -- half of them civilians -- since the Saudi-led coalition launched airstrikes on Yemen in March 2015, according to the United Nations.