Aden: Pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition retook Yemen's biggest airbase from Iran-backed rebels on Tuesday in a significant new gain after their recapture of second city Aden last month.
Their seizure of the Al-Anad base in a 24-hour assault using heavy armour supplied by the coalition came after hundreds of Gulf Arab troops landed in Aden to bolster the loyalist fightback.
Hailing victory in the battle for Al-Anad, the defence ministry vowed there would be no let-up in the war against the Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies until the authority of exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi was restored over the whole country.
The Al-Anad base, 60 kilometres north of Aden, is strategically located on the main road north towards both the battleground third city of Taez and the rebel-held capital Sanaa.
The vast 15 square kilometre complex housed US troops overseeing a drone war against Al-Qaeda in Yemen until shortly before the rebels overran it in March.
Its loss is a major blow for the rebels, whose leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi claimed just Sunday that their ouster from Aden after four months of ferocious fighting was just a "short-term" setback that would be reversed.
The loyalists swiftly pushed on from Al-Anad today, attacking the rebel-held Labouza army camp 10 kilometres further north, military sources said.
Pro-government sources said that the rebels lost 70 dead and 10 captured in the fighting for Al-Anad.
The loyalists suffered 24 dead and 23 wounded.
Officers who took part in the assault said that the rebels had put up "stiff resistance" but that Saudi-led air strikes had helped destroy their armour.
An AFP correspondent saw huge columns of tanks and artillery supplied by the coalition pounding the base's defences.
They were accompanied by large numbers of southern militiamen who formed the core of the resistance to the rebels before the deployment of reinforcements trained and equipped in Saudi Arabia.
The formerly independent south has a large secessionist movement whose supporters have made common cause with the exiled government out of shared hostility to the rebels from the Shiite north.
Some of the militiamen flew its flag.
The recapture of Al-Anad is a major boost for the defence of Aden and paves the way for a possible return by the exiled government to the southern port which was its last refuge before it fled into exile in neighbouring Saudi Arabia in March.