Thursday, April 2, 2015
Houthis have taken central Aden
Yemeni Houthi fighters and their allies seized a central Aden district on Thursday, striking a heavy blow against the Saudi-led coalition that has waged a week of air strikes to try to stem advances by the Shi'ite group.
Hours after the Houthis took over Aden's central Crater neighborhood, they marked another symbolic victory by fighting their way into a presidential residence overlooking the neighborhood, residents said.
The southern city has been the last major holdout of fighters loyal to Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled Aden a week ago and has watched from Riyadh as the vestiges of his authority have crumbled.
"Terrified residents have been fleeing from neighbourhood to neighbourhood since 3am local time," Bashraheel Hesham, a local journalist, told Al Jazeera on Thursday after fighting spread across the city. "A lot of dead bodies are still spread around the streets as it is not safe to go out to clear them."
Meanwhile, Yemen's Foreign Minister Riyadh Yaseen, directed his attention not at the Houthis on Thursday, but at former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. "The main thing now is if Ali Abdullah Saleh's forces stop fighting with [the Houthis], I think they will start to retreat. Our main problem now is not the Houthis. They are rebels, they are few; they have only light weapons which most Yemenis as you know have got. But Ali Abdullah Saleh's forces, which have heavy artillery, have all kinds of weapons, they are the ones who should surrender," Yaseen said.
Al-Qaeda fighters have stormed a prison in southeastern Yemen and freed several hundred inmates, including one of their leaders, a security official said. Khalid Batarfi, a senior al-Qaeda figure who had been held for more than four years, was among more than 300 prisoners who escaped from the jail in Hadramout province on Thursday, AFP news agency reported the official as saying.
Two prison guards and five inmates were killed in clashes during the prison break.Batarfi is among al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's top regional commanders, known for his leading role in a 2011-2012 battle with Yemeni government troops during which the fighters seized large amounts of territory in the south and east.
Al-Qaeda gunmen also clashed on Thursday with troops guarding the local administration complex in the provincial capital Mukalla, a branch of the central bank and the police headquarters. Yemen has descended further into chaos since a Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes a week ago against positions held by Houthi rebels and their allies across the country.