At least 40 dead in battle for Yemen port
ADEN – Agence France-PresseFighting for a key port city on Yemen’s Red Sea coast has left at least 40 rebel and pro-government fighters dead, military officials said Jan. 24.
Loyalist forces said on Jan. 23 that they had captured the port of Mokha, almost three weeks into an offensive to oust Shiite Houthi insurgents and their allies from Yemen’s southwestern coast.
But they exchanged fire overnight with rebels still holed up in the port on Mokha’s southwestern edge.
Clashes continued on Jan. 24 on the southern and eastern outskirts of the city.
“Despite the significant human toll, the Houthis are still in the center of Mokha,” a military official told AFP.
Rebel snipers were reported to have slowed the loyalist advance.
At least 28 rebels and 12 pro-government fighters have been killed in fighting in the past 24 hours, military and medical sources said Jan. 24.
That brought to nearly 200 the number of deaths on both sides since the offensive began.
Houthi forces had 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.
Forces supporting President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, launched a vast offensive on Jan. 7 to retake the coastline overlooking the Bab al-Mandab strait.
The strait is a strategically vital maritime route connecting the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Military sources said fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters from the coalition have been pounding the Iran-backed rebels and their allies.
But despite the coalition’s superior firepower, rebels and their allies still control the capital Sanaa, much of the central and northern highlands, and most of the 450-kilometre (280-mile) Red Sea coast.