Fighters allied with the Saudi-led coalition in the province of Shabwa. (Photo credit: Getty Images)
Intense fighting has been reported between the Yemeni Armed Forces and militias allied with the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) in oil-rich Shabwah province.
According to various reports, the Giants Brigades Salafist militia and other armed groups allied with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) managed to push back against the advancing army on 5 January.
These armed groups arrived in Shabwah in late December to bolster the coalition’s chances against the Yemeni army.
This took place just days after ousted president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi dismissed governor Muhammad bin Adyo from his post and named UAE-backed Awad Al-Awlaki as the new governor of Shabwah.
Reports indicate that the Giants Brigades regained control of a military base and other areas between Usaylan and Bayhan districts in Shabwa.
Their victory was due in part thanks to at least 36 air strikes launched in the west of Shabwah by coalition warplanes, one of which reportedly killed the deputy governor of Shabwa under the Sanaa government, Ahmed Al Hamza.
According to experts, these developments could prevent the Yemeni army from gaining control of oil fields in Shabwa while setting the stage for military operations by Riyadh’s forces in Al Bayda and Marib, the province to the north of Shabwah, previously considered to be the coalition’s last major northern stronghold.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports from resource-rich Marib indicate that the Saudi-led coalition has managed to retake some areas on the southern and western outskirts of Marib city.
Over recent months, Marib has become the focus of the seven-year war, as coalition forces have lost control of 13 out of the province’s 14 districts to the Yemeni army and allied Popular Committees.
As such, Riyadh and its allies have redoubled efforts to push back against the Yemeni army, as experts believe that the liberation of Marib could prove to be a major turning point in favor of the Ansarallah resistance movement.