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Sun 3 May 2015 05:12 PM

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Yemen: Small Arab force reported in Aden, Saudi issues denial

Newspaper reports claimed an Arab force had landed in the city and was battling Houthi fighters

Yemen: Small Arab force reported in Aden, Saudi issues denial
Saudi soldiers deploy near the border with Yemen in the desert region of Khuba

Dozens of Arab special forces soldiers arrived in Aden on Sunday
and deployed alongside local fighters against Yemen's Houthi militia, a militia
spokesman said, signalling a major escalation of the country's war.

Saudi Arabia
denied that a major ground operation was under way by the anti-Houthi coalition
it leads, but declined to comment on special forces - a topic Riyadh has
consistently refused to address in the more than one-month-old conflict.

In Aden, Ali
al Ahmadi, the spokesman for the Southern Popular Resistance, a group defending
the southern port city against an advance by the Iranian-allied Houthis, told
Reuters:

"Joint
land forces from the Arab coalition landed in Aden on Sunday and are now
participating with the southern resistance to fight around Aden airport.

"It's a
limited force - 40-50 from special forces."

The coalition,
which seeks to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi,
includes eight other Arab states and is receiving logistical support from the
United States, Britain and France.

It has refused
to rule out the eventual use of ground troops, but to date it has mostly used
air power and some artillery on the Saudi border to bombard Houthi militia and
allied army units.

Aden, a hotbed
of anti-Houthi sentiment, has been a flashpoint since the war began on March
26, when the coalition began attacking Houthi forces opposed to Saudi-backed
Hadi, who was based in Aden for several weeks before fleeing to Riyadh.

The world's top
oil exporter and arch Sunni Muslim regional rival of Shi'ite Iran, Saudi Arabia
says it was concerned for its own security and Yemen's stability after Shi'ite
Houthi forces captured the capital and began advancing across the country, on
its southern border, in September.

Fighting around
Yemen has killed more than 1,000 people, including an estimated 551 civilians
since the bombings started, the United Nations said on April 24. Its children's
agency UNICEF said at least 115 children were among the dead.

The Saudi-led
coalition attacking Yemen has probably used cluster bombs which are banned by
most countries, the international monitoring group Human Rights Watch (HRW)
said.

"Credible
evidence indicates that the Saudi-led coalition used banned cluster munitions
supplied by the United States in air strikes against Houthi forces," Human
Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement. It said it had not been able to obtain
information on possible casualties from the attacks.

Saudi Arabia's
coalition spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the report.

In overnight
fighting, warplanes from the coalition struck Sanaa's al Dulaimi military
airbase, residents of the Houthi-controlled capital said. The aircraft also
targeted a camp of forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, an ally
of the Houthis, in Arhab district north of the city, the residents added. There
was no immediate word on casualties.

In Aden,
fighting continued in central Mualla and Khor Maksar districts, near the main
commercial port, as well as in the city's north, around a military camp and the
airport, where there have been clashes for three days, local sources said.

Iran, which
backs the Houthis, does not recognise Hadi and has portrayed the air strikes as
an intervention in Yemen's internal affairs.

Last week,
Saudi Arabia said coalition jets destroyed the runway of Yemen's Sanaa airport
to prevent an Iranian cargo plane from landing there.

Commenting on
reports that the coalition had deployed troops to Aden, Brigadier General Ahmed
Asseri said the alliance has not started any major ground offensive in the
city.

He told Reuters
there were no non-Yemeni forces fighting in Aden, but said the coalition would
continue to assist local militias fighting the Houthis.

"We from
the beginning said we are supporting the loyal part of the army - the loyal
tribes, the loyal popular groups to protect the legitimacy of the government to
protect themselves. All of these options are on the table and we use it to give
those loyals the capabilities to be able to portect themselves and
civilians," he said.

"If some
such thing happens (a special forces operation), we cannot talk about it in the
media."

Anon 4 years ago

Most of whom will be non Saudi nationals!