The governor of Yemen’s Marib province said at least 3,000 Yemeni soldiers have been or are being trained in using sophisticated armoured personnel carriers that will take part in what he called “the liberation of Yemen” from Al Houthis.
Sultan Al Arada told Gulf News on Sunday night that some of those soldiers have arrived in the province with their advanced vehicles and the rest are receiving training in a desert area near the Saudi border with Yemen. The governor made no mention of the date of the operation on Al Houthis strongholds in northern Yemen. Leaders of the exiled government’s army have, however, been quoted in the Saudi press saying they are ready for a push on Sana’a next month.
“This is a great honour to us that Marib will be launch pad for an operation that will regain the state from Al Houthis,” the governor told Gulf News.
Al Arada’s statement confirms observers’ speculations that the arid and dry province would be used like the port city of Aden a base for launching a massive military operation on Al Houthis who are in control of most of the north, including the capital.
Amateur photographers have recently posted photos and videos of long convoy of armoured vehicles crossing Saudi Arabia into Marib province. The vehicles, including M198 Howitzer, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and PANTSIT-S1 system. The governor said that along with the 3,000 highly-trained soldiers, there are thousands of pro-government forces that are amassing in the province.
“These forces will change the battle against Al Houthis from [largely] defensive to offensive,” he said, adding that a brigade from the republican guard that defected from Al Houthis and the former president’s forces would take part in the operation.
In July, the Saudi-led coalition forces and resistance fighters took the offensive when they launched a big military from Aden, driving the rebels out of the city and other province in the south.
Unlike most of Yemen provinces that fell quickly to Al Houthis during their early days in power, the tribal-dominated province managed to blunt the advance and engaged in bloody clashes that killed hundreds of fighters from both sides.
Al Arada said Marib’s resistance did not crumble since feuding tribes agreed to “put aside” their differences and coming together to fight Al Houthis.
Marib province produces oil and gas and its large electricity station feeds many provinces, including the capital, with power. The governor said that oil fields and the power station have not been affected by the fighting and the province continues to send fuel tanks across the country. Al Houthis say that they advanced to Marib to protect the province from Al Qaida and tribesmen who attack power towers and oil and gas pipelines. Al Arada responded: “This is the Al Houthis’ big lie that they use to get the world’s sympathy”.
In Marib, three remote areas are still under Al Houthis’ control: Majazer, Saraweh and Houreb Al Qaramesh.