Yemen’s exiled prime minister has visited the country’s war-torn city of Aden, after a Saudi-led air campaign dislodged the Houthi rebels from the southern port city, authorities say.
Khaled Bahah landed in Aden with six government ministers on Saturday morning, according to Aden’s airport chief, Tarek Abdu Ali, becoming the highest ranking official to return to the city since it was recaptured in mid-July.
He visited several districts and was briefed on damage to the presidential palace, state broadcaster and military headquarters, a security source said. Bahah later flew out to Abu Dhabi, a government source said.
Bahah’s visit became possible after fighters from the southern Popular Resistance drove the Houthis out of Aden two weeks ago, a major setback for the group which has been on the offensive since seizing control of the capital Sanaa last September.
His trip coincided with the World Food Programme delivering desperately needed aid in the city.
WFP said on their website that they have begun distributing aid to almost 340,000 people in eight of the worst affected areas of the city.
Meanwhile, military and fighters loyal to the exiled government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi advanced on the strategic southern city of Zanjibar, security officials and witnesses said.
Ali Hawash, a pro-Hadi field commander speaking by phone from Zanjibar, told the AP news agency that his fighters had entered the city and were searching for Houthi fighters.
He added that southern fighters were advancing with air cover from the coalition air strikes amid fierce clashes with opposing fighters.
They aim to take control of Zanjibar in order to secure Aden from the west and cut off a key supply line for the Houthis.
Houthi officials said their fighters remain in control of the south and west of the city.
Meanwhile, Egypt extended its participation in the coalition air strikes for another six months, the presidency said on Saturday.
“The National Defence Council agreed to prolong the participation of [Egyptian] troops engaged in a combat mission” in the Gulf, the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait, a statement said.
The fighting in Yemen has pitted the Shia Houthis and troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh against southern separatists, local and tribal groups, Sunni fighters and loyalists of the exiled president, who is now in Saudi Arabia.
The UN says the war has killed nearly 4,000 people, half of them civilians, while 80 percent of the 21 million population is in need of aid and protection.