Arab coalition deploys ‘limited’ force on ground in Yemen

Friday 01/05/2015
Ground intervention is on table if needed

RIYADH - The Saudi-led coalition has not started any major ground offensive in Yemen's port city of Aden, its spokesman said on Sunday after a Yemeni newspaper reported that an Arab force had landed in the city and was battling Huthi fighters.

Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said there were no non-Yemeni forces fighting in Aden, but said the coalition would continue to assist local militias fighting the Huthis.

He said he could not comment on whether the coalition had deployed any special forces to Aden.

A "limited" number of Saudi-led ground troops deployed in Yemen's second city Aden on Sunday to support loyalist militia fighting rebels, a Yemeni government official and a militia commander said.

"A limited coalition force entered Aden and another force is on its way" to the southern port city, said the official who requested anonymity.

The Saudi-led coalition has been conducting an air war against the Huthi rebels and their allies since March 26 but this is the first reported ground deployment inside the country.

A leading member of the popular committees, a locally recruited militia loyal to exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, said that the force "will start helping us in fighting the (Shiite) Huthis and (former president Ali Abdullah) Saleh's forces".

He said the troops will mainly back pro-Hadi fighters around the rebel-held international airport, which was the focus of renewed heavy fighting overnight.

Other militia commanders confirmed that a few dozen coalition soldiers, mostly Saudis and Emiratis of Yemeni origin, were on the ground in Aden.

The coalition declared an end to its Operation Decisive Storm on April 21, saying the campaign would enter a new phase dubbed Renewal of Hope focused on political efforts, aid deliveries and "fighting terrorism".

Coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Assiri had said repeatedly during the first phase that a ground intervention was on the table if needed.