Aden: Loyalist forces launched a major offensive on Monday to recapture Yemen`s largest air base from Shiite rebels, deploying heavy armour supplied by their Saudi-led backers, military sources said.
The Al-Anad base, north of second city Aden, is strategically important and housed US troops overseeing a drone war against al Qaeda in Yemen until shortly before the rebels overran it in March.
That advance, which took the rebels all the way into Aden, forced President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and his internationally recognised government into Saudi exile.
But it has now been reversed and his loyalists are in full control of the southern port.
Hundreds of troops and militia, equipped with tanks and armoured vehicles supplied by the Saudi-led coalition, deployed around the base late on Sunday in preparation for the attack, their commander Fadhl Hassan said.
"The battle to retake Al-Anad base has begun," a military source told AFP on Monday.
Another source said that Saudi-led warplanes were providing air cover for the loyalist forces, who launched the offensive from a mountainous region west of Al-Anad.
The coalition has carried out more than four months of air strikes against the rebels and has vowed to continue them until Hadi`s authority is restored.
But the rebels remain in control of the capital Sanaa, which they overran last September, and large swathes of the rest of the country.