Saudi-led military campaign could end in ‘days,’ Yemeni minister says

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A military operation led by Saudi Arabia that is targeting Shiite insurgents in Yemen with airstrikes could end in “days,” the foreign minister of the Yemeni government said Friday.

Speaking to the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television station, Riyadh Yaseen said he expected that “this operation will not go on for long. I think it will be days.”

The comments, reported by the Reuters news agency, come as a coalition of largely Arab countries continued for a second day to carry out air raids against the Shiite rebels. The campaign threatens to ignite regional conflict over a volatile Arabian Peninsula country that hosts a powerful al-Qaeda affiliate.

Local media and residents in Sanaa, the capital, said the airstrikes on Friday targeted military installations controlled by the rebels, known as Houthis, as well as forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh, the longtime Yemeni autocrat who was forced from power three years ago. Other attacks targeted a port in the west and a military base in the oil-rich province of Marib, which the Houthis have attempted to capture in recent weeks.

One early morning attack on the presidential residence in Sanaa, which has been under Houthi control since September, killed at least two unnamed Houthi leaders and injured Mohammed al-Houthi, the rebel group’s top official in the city, according to local media reports.

But Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a top-ranking Houthi official, called the reports “entirely false.”

Speaking by telephone, he accused Saudi Arabia of seeking “to destroy Yemen’s army” by attacking military bases.

The Saudi-led campaign includes at least 10 countries and is meant to halt Houthi advances, which have left vast tracts of Yemeni territory under rebel control. Early this year, the rebels effectively toppled the U.S.-backed government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a key U.S. partner in combating al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Hadi was placed under house arrest in Sanaa but escaped to the southern port city of Aden. As Shiite rebels moved in on Aden this week, Hadi fled Yemen and resurfaced in Saudi Arabia, which hopes to restore his government.

Many Yemenis are concerned that the fighting is turning their country into another battleground between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, the region’s foremost powers. Riyadh accuses Tehran of arming the Houthis, who are followers of the Zaydi sect of Shiite Islam.

Tehran has condemned the Saudi-led attacks and called for an immediate halt to the campaign, which includes Egyptian threats to mount a land incursion into Yemen. Cairo has dispatched several warships to Aden, which is under threat of capture by an allied force of Houthis and Saleh loyalists.

(Source: The Washington Post)

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