A top Islamic State group leader was killed and three others arrested in a government raid on Saturday in southern Yemen, police said. Saleh Nasr Fadl al-Bakhshi, self-proclaimed “emir” of the radical group’s branch in the Aden and Abyan regions, was killed in the raid on an IS hideout in government-held territory, a senior officer with Aden’s police force told AFP. Islamist networks, including IS and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have exploited years of war in Yemen to expand their presence in the country’s south.
The government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi has been based in southern Yemen since 2015, after Shiite Huthi rebels drove it from the capital Sanaa and much of the country’s north, prompting a Saudi-led military intervention. Southern Yemen is the target of a US-backed operation against AQAP, led by the United Arab Emirates, as well as a long-running US drone campaign.
The Yemen war has claimed nearly 10,000 lives since Saudi Arabia and its military allies joined the conflict in March 2015, triggering what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
An air strike on Yemen’s capital by a Saudi-led military coalition has killed dozens of Huthi rebels including at least two commanders, Saudi television reported today. Saudi Arabia’s official Al-Ekhbariya television said two high-ranking insurgents were among more than 50 Huthi militiamen killed in Sanaa on Friday evening, without giving further details.
Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television said a total of 38 rebels were killed in the strike on a Huthi interior ministry building. The Huthis confirmed an air strike on Sanaa but gave no details. The raid came hours ahead of a public funeral of the Huthis’ political head Saleh al-Sammad, killed last week in a Saudi-led coalition strike. It also came as newly-appointed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was scheduled to land in Riyadh for meetings including talks on the Yemen conflict.
The Iran-backed rebels have been locked in a war with the Saudi-led military alliance, which since 2015 has fought to restore the internationally-recognised Yemeni government to power. The Yemen conflict is widely seen as a proxy war between regional titans Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The Huthis control Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, as well as much of the country’s north — which borders Saudi Arabia — and the key Hodeida port on Yemen’s Red Sea coast. Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since the Saudi-led alliance joined the Yemen conflict, triggering what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Yemen now stands at the brink of famine. The Saudi-led coalition imposed a total blockade on Yemen’s ports in November in retaliation for cross-border Huthi missile attacks on Saudi Arabia. The blockade has since been partially lifted, but access to the impoverished country remains limited.