Hundreds of Houthis killed in fighting in central Yemen, officials say

Houthi rebels have stepped up their attacks on Marib’s Serwah and Helan areas in an attempt to capture the oil- and gas-rich city of Marib. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 20 August 2020

Hundreds of Houthis killed in fighting in central Yemen, officials say

  • 35 fighters surrender to Yemeni troops in Serwah

AL-MUKALLA: Almost 1,000 Houthi fighters have been killed over the past four days in fierce clashes with government forces, which include allied tribesmen, in various contested areas of the central province of Marib, with hundreds more wounded or captured, local media and government officials said on Thursday. 

The Iran-backed Houthis have stepped up their attacks on Marib’s Serwah and Helan areas in an attempt to capture the oil- and gas-rich city of Marib.

“We have counted 966 Houthis, including senior officers, killed in the fighting in Marib over the last four days. Their bodies are still scattered on the battlefields,” an army officer in Marib, who asked to remain anonymous, told Arab News by telephone. Dozens of government troops and their tribal allies have also reportedly died in the fighting.

On Wednesday, at least 35 Houthi fighters surrendered when government forces attacked their location in Marib’s Serwah, local army commanders said. On the same day, senior army commanders in Marib attended the funeral of Brig. Mohammed Ali Alroken, the commander of 122 Infantry Brigade, who was killed in action in the northern province of Jawf.  

Local army commanders say that warplanes belonging to the Arab coalition have been targeting Houthi military locations and reinforcements. On Thursday, state television showed footage of thick smoke billowing from Houthi locations in mountainous areas of Serwah. 

Despite the heavy losses incurred during the Houthi offensive, Houthi official media outlets and Houthi supporters on social media claim the Iran-backed militia has made territorial gains in the province and is close to seizing control of Marib city.

The escalation in fighting comes as the United Nations Security Council and the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths called upon warring factions to halt all military operations in Marib in order not to jeopardize peace in a city that is currently home to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people who have taken shelter their over the last 5 years after fleeing their homes in the north.

Many local and international aid organizations have warned that Houthi attacks on the city have created panic among residents.

In neighboring Al-Bayda, Brig. Abdulrab Al-Asbahi, the commander of Al-Bayda Axis, said on Wednesday that at least 60 Houthis had been killed in heavy fighting with government forces in the district of Qania.

The Yemeni commander said air support and logistical support from the Saudi-led coalition and local tribesmen had enabled his troops to push back Houthi offensives in the area.

Lt. Gen. Sagheer bin Aziz, the army’s chief of staff, has renewed his pledge to defeat the Houthis on the battlefield and drive them out of areas under their control, including the capital, Sanaa.

Speaking to a gathering of army soldiers in Marib on Wednesday, Bin Aziz thanked the Saudi-led coalition for its support and stressed that the army and allied tribesmen are “determined to expel the Houthis from all Yemeni areas.”


US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

Updated 22 October 2020

US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

  • Intelligence director: “These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries”

WASHINGTON: US officials accused Iran on Wednesday of being behind a flurry of emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple battleground states that appeared to be aimed at intimidating them into voting for President Donald Trump.
The announcement at a rare, hastily called news conference just two weeks before the election underscored the concern within the US government about efforts by foreign countries to spread false information meant to suppress voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote.
The activities attributed to Iran would mark a significant escalation for a nation that some cybersecurity experts regard as a second-rate player in online espionage, with the announcement coming as most public discussion surrounding election interference has centered on Russia, which hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election, and China, a Trump administration adversary.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” said John Ratcliffe, the government’s top intelligence official, who, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted the US would impose costs on any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 US election and that the integrity of the election is still sound.
“You should be confident that your vote counts,” Wray said. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
Wray and Ratcliffe did not describe the emails linked to Iran, but officials familiar with the matter said the US has linked Tehran to messages sent to Democratic voters in at least four battleground states that falsely purported to be from the neo-fascist group Proud Boys and that warned “we will come after you” if the recipients didn’t vote for Trump.
The officials also said Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Ratcliffe said the spoofed emails were intended to hurt Trump, though he did not elaborate on how. An intelligence assessment released in August said: “Iran seeks to undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content.”
Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, made no reference to the press conference but repeated a familiar campaign assertion that Iran is opposed to his reelection. He promised that if he wins another term he will swiftly reach a new accord with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Iran doesn’t want to let me win. China doesn’t want to let me win,” Trump said. “The first call I’ll get after we win, the first call I’ll get will be from Iran saying let’s make a deal.”
Both Russia and Iran also obtained voter registration information, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Asked about the emails during an online forum Wednesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she lacked specific information. “I am aware that they were sent to voters in multiple swing states and we are working closely with the attorney general on these types of things and others,” she said.
While state-backed Russian hackers are known to have infiltrated US election infrastructure in 2016, there is no evidence that Iran has ever done so.
The voter intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers. Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation. The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the Nov. 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.
Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of this type of operation, as such registration lists are not difficult to obtain.
“These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections,” Christopher Krebs, the top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Tuesday night after reports of the emails first surfaced.