Al Mukalla: Army troops and security services in Yemen’s southern province of Shabwa have arrested hundreds of illegal African immigrants fearing that they might be recruited by Al Houthis and militant groups like Al Qaida.

“Security services have rounded up at least 300 Africans in the first day of the campaign that started on Wednesday. Those unregistered Africans pose a real threat to the province,” a government official close to the governor of Shabwa told Gulf News.

Local officials and residents say that despite the continuing fighting between the government forces and Al Houthis across Yemen, Africans continue to flow into Yemen coast.

“For months, at least 200 Africans have been arriving daily on the coasts of Shabwa. Most of them say they are from Ethiopia, but we suspect that they are from different African countries,” the official said.

The oil rich province of Shabwa plunged into anarchy last year when thousands of army troops and policemen switched sides and backed Al Houthi fighters.

Marching from Aden, government forces drove out the rebel forces in August last year. But Al Qaida exploited the ensuing security vacuum to take control of some areas in the province.

The official said that the cash-strapped province couldn’t deal with the influx of African immigrants on its own. “We have no proper prisons or other facilities to incarcerate them. The local authority in the province is preparing an official appeal to the Saudi-led coalition, asking them to prevent the immigrants from reaching the Yemeni coast,” the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to reporters. Meanwhile, heavy clashes broke out between government forces and Al Houthis in Nehim district outside the Yemeni capital. Abdullah Al Shandaqi, a spokesperson for Sana’a resistance, said on Thursday that at least nine Al Houthi fighters and a government fighter were killed in the fighting and his forces captured some mountainous positions in Nehim.

Earlier this year, government forces made a major incursion inside Al Houthi-controlled territories in the province of Sana’a by seizing control of Nehim military camp. Despite getting heavy military reinforcements from the capital, Al Houthis and army units loyal to the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh have failed to push back the advancing forces.

In the province of Baydha, another flaring front-line, local media reported on Thursday resistance fighters launched attacks on Al Houthi military sites in the Naem district.