68 killed in battles near Yemen's strategic strait

At least 68 fighters have been killed in two days of fierce battles between Yemeni forces and the Houthis (Ansarallah) near strategic Bab al-Mandab strait, AFP reported Sunday (January 8th).

Yemeni forces launched an assault Saturday, recapturing the coastal Dhubab district, just 30 kilometres north of Bab al-Mandab, which links the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Since then at least 55 Houthis have been killed in fighting and 72 others wounded, military and medical sources said.

Clashes since Saturday also killed 13 fighters loyal to Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, including an army general.

Fighting was still under way Sunday as pro-Hadi forces were trying to retake a key military base in the Dhubab region from the Houthis.

Al-Omari base is located in a mountainous region that overlooks the coastal road linking Bab al-Mandab region to Dhubab, and opens the way to al-Hodeidah port on the Red Sea, which is held by the Houthis.

The Houthis and allied fighters on Sunday fired two ballistic missiles that were intercepted by the coalition, a military source said.

Landmines planted by the Houthis had slowed down the advance of Yemeni forces, military officials said.

The Yemeni government and its allies recaptured Bab al-Mandab strait in October 2015, pushing the Iran-backed Houthis further north.

But the Houthis still control nearly all of Yemen's Red Sea coast to the north, posing a threat to international shipping .

In a separate incident on Sunday, a local al-Qaeda leader in al-Bayda province was killed in an airstrike, a security source said.

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