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    Taliban FM visits Iran for talks on trade, border and refugees

    AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s army and Giants Brigades forces loyal to the government on Sunday seized control of parts of Ain district, the last pocket of territory held by the Iran-backed Houthis in the southern province of Shabwa, local officials and media reports said.

    The Giants Brigades, supported by warplanes belonging to the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, punched their way into the Ain district after securing the neighboring districts of Ouselan and Bayhan, triggering limited clashes with Houthi militia who fled to their territory in the central Al-Bayda province.

    During the early hours of Sunday, government forces quickly seized control of Al-Saq area in Ain as Houthis abandoned their positions. Loyalists later engaged in heavy fighting with the rebel militia on the edges of Ain district center.

    By Sunday afternoon, the advancing forces tightened their grip on the center of Ain and surrounding areas, and engaged in battles with small numbers of Houthis who refused to surrender.

    “They are battling some pockets of Houthis in Ain,” a local official told Arab News by telephone.

    If government forces take full control of Ain, Shabwa province will be liberated from the Houthis for the first time since September 2021.

    Other military forces from the Giants Brigades simultaneously pushed deeper into the Houthi-controlled areas in Al-Bayda under heavy airstrikes from coalition warplanes.

    Residents said that the retreating Houthis on Sunday blew up a steep road linking Shabwa with Al-Bayda in an effort to slow the advancing forces.

    The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen said on Sunday that it had killed more than 290 Houthis in Shabwa during the past 24 hours after targeting their military vehicles and gatherings with 39 airstrikes.

    The coalition also carried out 15 air raids in the central province of Marib that killed 65 Houthis and destroyed 11 militia vehicles.

    For the first time in two years, the Houthis have suffered a string of military setbacks. Earlier this month, the Giants Brigades — an umbrella term for government-backed forces previously battling the Houthis in coastal areas on the Red Sea — seized control of swathes of land in Shabwa province and Al-Bayhan, including key military bases and rebel supply lines.

    The military gains on the battlefields in Shabwa and Al-Bayda have helped ease Houthi pressure on loyalists defending the central city of Marib.

    Dozens of Houthis and government soldiers, including several leaders, were killed in the fighting in Shabwa.

    Yemen’s government on Sunday mourned the death of Brig. Majidi Al-Radfani, commander of the Giants Brigades’ 3rd Brigade, who was killed in fighting in Shabwa.

    Al-Radfani was the second high-ranking military officer to die during the military operations in Shabwa.

    At least two Houthi military leaders were reportedly killed in fighting or by coalition airstrikes in Shabwa in the past 48 hours.

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