Al Mukalla: Yemeni government forces have thrust further into the central province of Baydha after taking complete control of the neighbouring Shabwa province, Yemen’s Defence Ministry said.

Government forces liberated two districts in Baydha following fierce clashes with the Iran-backed Al Houthis, who fled to their shrinking territories in the province. The ministry said in a statement on its official website that Al Houthis suffered heavy losses in Natea and Noaman districts, and government forces were securing their positions before heading to new areas. Loyalists, backed by intensive air cover and military advisers from the Saudi-led coalition, rolled into the province of Baydha from Shabwa on Sunday for the first time after taking control of a mountainous road linking the two provinces.

On Sunday, Brigadier General Abdo Abdullah Majili, a Yemeni army spokesperson, officially announced ousting Al Houthis from the remaining mountains under their control in Bayhan and Ouselan districts in the province of Shabwa. “The national army and resistance fighters have completely cleared Shabwa from Al Houthis and are now fighting their way into Baydha,” Majili told Gulf News by telephone.

Al Houthis lost Bayhan town, their last urban bastion in Shabwa, on December 15 when government forces mounted a surprise offensive from Marib province, breaking months of military stalemate. Within hours, Al Houthis, who held the town for almost three years, crumbled in the face of the ground offensive and heavy strikes by coalition’s fighter jets. Majili said hundreds of Al Houthi militants have been killed or captured by government forces during the current offensive in Shabwa and Baydha. Fifteen loyalists were killed and 22 others injured when they stormed Al Houthis’ remaining positions in Shabwa, the Aden Al Ghad news site said on Monday.

In Baydha, tribesmen loyal to the internationally — recognised government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi have been battling Al Houthis in rugged areas in Waleed Rabea district since the beginning of their rapid military expansion in early 2015. With the current offensive in the province, Yemen’s army will be able to send military reinforcements from liberated areas like Shabwa to the battlefields in Baydha.

Meanwhile, in Nehim district, just outside of Al Houuthi-held Sana’a, fighting raged on Monday between government forces and Al Houthis along rugged mountains. The Defence Ministry said the fighting expanded to areas close to Arhab district amid heavy air raids by fighter jets from the Saudi-led coalition that destroyed armoured vehicles carrying militants and arms from Sana’a to the battlefield.