Saudi general discusses Yemen and Al-Qaeda operations

"85-90% under government control", he says

02 May, 17:01

    (by Shelly Kittleson) (ANSAmed) - ROME, MAY 2 - In a conference call with journalists last week to discuss developments in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, Brigadier General Ahmed Al-Assiri said that ''85 to 90 percent'' of the country had returned under government control.

    Assiri, a spokesman for the Saudi-led military coalition and military advisor to Saudi deputy crown prince and defense minister Muhammad bin Salman, told journalists that his country and 12 others had started operations on March 26, 2015 ''to achieve three objectives'': to keep the government structure and prevent Yemen from becoming a failed state, to degrade the capabilities of the (Shia Houthi) militias and to secure the population and enable humanitarian aid to get in.

    The UN has stated that some 6,400 people have been killed in the last year of fighting, half of them civilians, and that almost 2.8 million have been displaced.

    On April 18, Houthi rebels backed out of UN-brokered talks in Kuwait hours prior to when they were to have started, demanding that the Saudi-led coalition stop airstrikes they said were continuing even after a ceasefire came into effect on April 10.

    On Friday, protests were held across the country to call for an end to the fighting that continues despite the fragile ceasefire. Indirect talks started on April 21, while the first direct talks between Houthi rebel and government delegations were held on Saturday.

    Asiri added in the press briefing that recent operations conducted by the Saudi-led coalition against Al-Qaeda and groups connected with it in Yemen had been carried out in ''Hadramout, we attacked them in Mukalla, and Abyan, in Lahad'' and that the coalition had liberated Aden. Mukalla is a strategic Yemeni port that had been held by local Al Qaeda militants for over a year. The Saudi-led coalition announced on April 25 that they had retaken it and had killed ''800 militants'' in the first few hours of a operation that included UAE Special Forces.

    Residents have reportedly said that there was little actual fighting in the city and that the extremists had withdrawn.

    To a question on the issue, Assiri said that the coalition had conducted a surprise attack at night and that was the reason for the high number killed. ''The target at the end of the day, the target is Mukalla streets. Whatever the number of killed'', he said, the port of Mukalla is now controlled by the Yemeni government. ''We continue to follow those terrorists and we continue to find out where they out where they are'', and ''we are committed to clear Hadramout'' of Al Qaeda, he added.

    Brigadier General Asiri stressed that said that '' we always used the Yemeni army, today we use the Yemeni security unit which was trained by the coalition. We want them to be engaged and to be part of the solution in Yemen. This is why we use them.'' ''We couldn't engage Al Qaeda in the first month or second month of the campaign in Yemen but today we have enough forces of Yemeni security unit'' alongside ''Saudi and Emirati special forces. They can defeat Al Qaeda and they will continue to do so.'' (ANSAmed).

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