AL-MUKALLA: Heavy fighting broke out on Sunday between government forces and separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) troops in Yemen’s southern Abyan province after loyalists attacked a major city there, local media reports and residents said.
Army troops and allied tribesmen briefly recaptured Ja’ar town after a brief and abrupt attack on separatists who retreated to neighboring areas under their control. Residents told Arab News that separatists pushed loyalists out of Ja’ar three hours later after regrouping and getting reinforcements from Abyan’s capital.
“Government forces entered the town at nearly 11 a.m. and subsequently set up checkpoints before being forced into retreating after a counterattack by STC troops,” a resident, who preferred to remain anonymous, said.
Clashes have reportedly killed several combatants and civilians. Pro-government figures posted images on social media of captured forces and military equipment abandoned by separatists. STC media broadcast footage of military vehicles seized from government forces after the clashes.
The latest circle of violence in southern Yemen began in April, when the STC announced self-rule in Aden and other southern provinces and vowed to block the return of the internationally-recognized government to Aden, prompting the government into ordering its forces to push toward Aden to expel the separatists.
Separatists managed to fight back despite the relentless attacks.
In the north of the country Yemen’s defense ministry said on Sunday that army troops and allied tribesmen had liberated a number of mountainous locations in Sanaa’s Nehim district following heavy clashes with the Iran-backed Houthis.
The Armed Forces Media Center reported that government forces, backed by air support from Saudi-led coalition warplanes, pushed Houthis out of several “strategic” locations in Najed Al-Ateq in Nehim, east of Sanaa.
Brig. Mohammed Mashali, an army commander in Nehim, was quoted as saying that government forces liberated 11 km in Nehim after killing and injuring dozens of Houthis, adding that army troops seized three vehicles, weapons and ammunition after the clashes.
Coalition warplanes targeted Houthi gatherings and reinforcements, destroying eight military vehicles on their way to the battlefield in Nehim, the Yemeni commander said.
Government forces have escalated attacks on Houthis in Nehim to recapture strategic areas that have fallen to the militia in the last couple of months. Fighting in Yemen has intensified since early this year, despite many calls from local health workers for a humanitarian truce to allow them to fight the spread of coronavirus.
Coronavirus deaths in government-controlled areas have topped 111, amid a severe shortage of testing kits at local laboratories.
The Aden-based national coronavirus committee on Saturday recorded 13 new COVID-19 cases in Aden, Taiz, Lahj, Abyan, Hadramout, Marib, Mahra, Dhale and Shabwa, bringing the total number to confirmed cases to 482, including 23 recoveries.
Laboratories in the province of Hadramout have run out of testing kits since Wednesday, when heavy rains destroyed the main road that links the provincial capital with Aden, disrupting the arrival of testing kits.
“We could not transport the province’s shipment of PRC machine testing kits from Aden due to floods,” a local government official, who wished to remain anonymous, told Arab News. “We alternatively use rapid tests for diagnosing coronavirus cases.”