Yemen forces clash with Islamists in southern city of Aden

AP News
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Posted: Mar 12, 2016 1:37 PM

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni military forces fought to retake areas held by Islamist militants in fierce clashes Saturday in the southern port city of Aden, security officials said.

The clashes in Aden's Mansoura district have expanded southward as civilians in the area fled their homes, while five civilians were injured from shrapnel and gunfire were taken to a local hospital, medical officials said.

Local affiliates of both al-Qaida and the Islamist State are fighting against security forces, with the fighters using heavy weapons in guerrilla warfare. A Saudi-led coalition started bombing Islamist locations in the city for the first time, the officials said.

Al-Qaida and the Islamic State have exploited the chaos of Yemen's 18-month civil war to expand the territory under their control in southern and eastern Yemen.

Yemen has been torn by conflict since 2014, when Shiite rebels known as Houthis and allied with a former president captured large swaths of the country, including the capital, Sanaa.

In March 2015, a coalition of mainly Gulf Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes and later a ground operation against the Houthis. More than 5,800 people have been killed and over 80 percent of Yemen's population is in dire need of food, water and other aid, according to the United Nations.

Intense clashes continued for the third day between Houthis and local fighters in the besieged city of Taiz, killing at least 85 fighters on both sides since Thursday, according to security officials.

The city has seen heavy fighting between Houthis and local resistance units financed and armed by the Saudi-led coalition. The Houthis have besieged Taiz for over a year now. A Houthi official told The Associated Press the rebels are sending reinforcements to the city.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.