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Yemen: Government loyalists, Tihamah’s tribes to form joint command, says official - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Militants loyal to Yemen's exiled government ride on the back of a pick-up truck during fighting with Houthi militiamen in Yemen's central city of Taiz on August 18, 2015. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Militants loyal to Yemen’s exiled government ride on the back of a pick-up truck during fighting with Houthi militiamen in Yemen’s central city of Taiz on August 18, 2015. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Jeddah and Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s exiled President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has approved a plan to establish three military formations, made up mainly of tribal fighters and former military personnel, to fight the Houthi insurgency in the Tihamah region, a military official has said.

The factions in Tihamah will follow the same leadership and be supervised by the president himself, Nasser Da’qeen, a spokesman for the anti-Houthi forces in the western coastal region, told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday.

The joint force will consist of about 10,000 fighters from across the Tihamah region on Yemen’s west coast, according to the spokesman, and will rely on the Saudi-led coalition for logistic support and military equipment.

Saudi Arabia has been bombarding the Houthis in Yemen since late March in a bid to restore exiled President Hadi to power.

The idea for the joint force was put forward by a delegation of tribal leaders and dignitaries from Tihamah who visited President Hadi at his residence in Riyadh on Thursday.

According to Da’qeen, the delegation expressed to President Hadi its willingness to fight the Houthis under a unified command rather than as separate factions.

The exiled president, the official maintained, accepted the proposal on the condition that his government be fully responsible for supporting the force both militarily and financially.

Meanwhile, Saudi-led warplanes on Friday carried out heavy airstrikes against Houthis in Al-Bayda governorate to clear the way for pro-Hadi fighters who are trying to advance on the central governorate, local sources said.

Over the past few days, loyalist forces, known as the Popular Resistance, have been mobilizing troops in Lodar, a town in Abyan Province near Bayda, in preparation for the attack.

Backed by Saudi and Emirati forces, Hadi’s loyalists have in recent weeks made significant gains in Yemen, retaking the strategic city of Aden as well as driving the Houthis from the southern provinces of Lahj, Al-Dalea and Abyan.

Arafat Madabish contributed additional reporting from Sana’a