Meanwhile, Khaled Batarfi, a leader of al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was seen in Aden today in photos circulating in social media. Batarif had been freed from prison by AQAP militants on Thursday when they took advantage of the chaotic situation in the country and captured the Yemeni port city of Mukallah on the Gulf of Aden and freed 270 prisoners from the city’s central prison, including Batarfi.
The fighting among factions in the city of Aden has killed 58 people and injured 200 more in the past two days. The factions are loyal to President Hadi, now in exile in Riyadh, the Huthi insurgents, who are the de-facto rulers of the country, former president Saleh, back from exile in Riyadh and for now an ally of the Huthis, and AQAP militants.
Adding in the midst are the Saudi Special Forces on the ground in Yemen assisting fighters targeting Houthis and Saleh troops, CNN reported today. The Saudi force are “coordinating and guiding” in non-combat roles, a Saudi source told the network. They also have helped “parachute in weapons and communications equipment.” And the Iranians have been supporting and arming the Huthis, although they have not directly taken part in the fighting as in Iraq or Syria.
The Saudi-led coalition of nine Middle Eastern countries has been conducting airstrikes against the Huthis since 25 March, hitting their major military facilities and armaments. But the Huthis have continued their advance in the country. Now the Saudi ground forces have taken up positions across the Yemeni border for possible ground invasion, CNN reported. But the Huthis are battle-hardened guerilla fighters and could match their opponents and could also cross into Saudi Arabia.
Photo credit: Huthi fighters in Aden on Thursday after capturing the city’s Crater neighborhood and the Presidential Palace. They were pushed back from the city on Friday under intense Saudi airstrikes and engagement with pro-Hadi forces.