Riyadh: A military source has told the London-based Al Sharq Al Awsat that Al Houthi militias and supporters of the ousted Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh have started enlisting the help of mercenaries from different countries in the confrontation against the national army.
The mercenaries, mainly from African countries, were promised large sums of money in return for fighting ahead of an anticipated offensive by Yemeni forces within the next few days on the Al Houthi-occupied capital.
Al Houthis have suffered a string of losses on the battlefield in recent months and have solicited help from outside forces. The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has also stepped up its presence in Yemen to help boost the weakening Al Houthi militia, after Yemeni forces backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition have made sweeping gains across the country since it stepped in last March to help roll back Al Houthi gains after they forcibly took over.
In the past few months, Yemeni forces have recaptured many surrounding provinces and are now making gains in Sana’a.
Meanwhile, gunmen killed a pro-government Sunni Salafist cleric yesterday in Yemen’s main southern city of Aden, a security official said.
Shaikh Abdul Rahman Al Adani was shot dead as he was heading to a mosque near his home, the official said.
Al Adani headed a Salafist religious school which attracts both local and foreign students.
He was known for his stance against Al Houthi militants as well as against Daesh and Al Qaida.
According to Zaid Al Sallami, an Aden-based expert on Islamist groups, Adani was known for “rejecting violence and terrorism”.
His murder was an attempt to “push moderate Salafist youths towards violence”, Sallami said.
Yemeni militiamen also clashed with soldiers guarding the presidential palace in Aden yesterday, a local official and residents said, in a rare confrontation between the previously allied forces.
The embattled Yemen government is based in Aden and has struggled to build up a national military and pay its bills, including to fighters who have fought on its behal.
A local official said the attackers, affiliated with a local militia called the Popular Southern Resistance, sought an audience with top officials inside the palace over unpaid medical bills for guards wounded in an attack there last month.
Six guards were killed and several were wounded in the attack on January 28 at the Maashiq palace in the crater district, for which Yemen’s branch of Daesh claimed responsibility.
“They wanted to discuss compensation for those killed and paying the medical bills for the wounded ... When the guards blocked them, a gun battle erupted involving light and medium weapons,” the official said.
— With inputs from agencies