Ali Abdullah Saleh Image Credit: AP

Al Mukalla: Major General Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar, a powerful pro-government army general, was assigned to command the current military operations in Yemen’s northern province of Hajja, a journalist close to Al Ahmar in the Saudi capital told Gulf News on Monday.

“General Ali Mohsen is currently leading Hajja frontline. He is a well-connected person who is able to convince military and tribal figures inside Yemen to defect from Al Houthis and Saleh,” the journalist said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief reporters on Al Ahmar’s activities.

On the weekend, pro-government activists shared a video showing the army general inspecting a military site apparently recaptured from Al Houthis fighters in the province of Hajja near the border with Saudi Arabia.

Last week hundreds of government troops who were trained in Saudi Arabia marched across the border from Saudi Arabia and managed to take control of Haradh city while naval forces backed a Saudi-led coalition raided the coastal city of Medi.

Al Ahmar was once a pillar of the regime of the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and used to be in charge of the First Armoured Division that fought Al Houthis in six wars. “Al Ahmar is the right person for leading the fighting in the mountainous Hajja province. He has great military expertise from the six wars with Al Houthis. He even defeated them in the second war,” the journalist said. Al Ahmar defected from Saleh’s regime in 2011 when Saleh’ forces shot dead dozens of peaceful protesters who were demanding his departure.

Separately, resistance fighters in the northern province of Jawf said on Monday that government army and local tribesmen recaptured new territories from Al Houthi rebels in the district of Khab and Al Sha’af.

“Beir Al Marazeeg, Wasat valley, Lakehel and Sabreen regions are under control of the legitimate [Hadi government],” Abdullah Al Ashraf, a spokesperson for Jawf Resistance, told Gulf News. The pro-government forces have recently pushed deep into the province, taking control of many military camps and Hazen city, the capital of Jawf. Al Ashraf predicted that military operation in Khab and Al Sha’af district would make little progress in the coming days. “This is largest district in Yemen. It has a long desert and rugged mountains.”

Also, warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition pounded Al Houthi military sites in many provinces in northern and western Yemen. Local media reports said that an air strike hit a military camp in western city of Hodeida on Sunday killing four Al Houthi fighters, including a field commander.

Meanwhile, ex-president Saleh rejected further peace talks with the government, saying dialogue should instead take place with Saudi Arabia.

In a speech late on Sunday during a meeting with members of his General People’s Congress (GPC) party, UN-sanctioned Saleh said “we will not take part in (future) dialogue ... unless the war ends.”

“And if the war ends, we will hold talks with Saudi Arabia and not with the delegate of escapees,” he said, in reference to the delegation of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognised government, which was forced into months of exile before returning in September to main southern city Aden.

— with inputs from AFP