Umm Raed, a fighter with Yemen’s separatist Southern Movement who says she is eight months pregnant, wields an automatic rifle at a checkpoint in Aden yesterday. Image Credit: AFP

Aden: The Yemeni commander of a vast military district covering half the country’s border with Saudi Arabia pledged support on Sunday to exiled President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, local officials said.

The announcement puts at least 15,000 troops in the desert and mountain border area on the same side as Saudi Arabia, which backs Hadi and has waged an inconclusive three-week bombing campaign against Al Houthi rebels in Yemen who are allied with Iran.

“Brigadier General Abdulrahman Al Halily of the First Military District announced today his support for constitutional legitimacy as represented by President Hadi,” one of the officials said.

The declaration was also broadcast on official radio in the city of Seiyun, the main city of the Hadramawt valley area where the district’s main military base is located.

Most of Yemen’s military is loyal to powerful ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose forces are fighting alongside the Al Houthi militia in battles stretching across Yemen’s south and east.

But the defection of the northeastern troops brings to about 10 the number of divisions that back Hadi. It may point to an increasing sense in the military that momentum favours the president, who resides in exile in the Saudi capital Riyadh.