ADEN, Jan 10 (Reuters) – Yemeni forces fighting the Houthi group said on Monday they had taken full control of energy-rich Shabwa province from the Houthis in a battle for control of Shabwa and neighbouring Marib which has become a focus of the seven-year conflict.
Yemen’s Giants Brigade, a group backed by the United Arab Emirates and also part of a Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthis, said full control of the province had been achieved after 10 days of fighting.
Fighting has intensified since the start of the year, after the coalition sent reinforcements to Shabwa, where Houthi inroads in September had cut off access to the Saudi-backed government’s last northern stronghold in Marib.
Marib, in central Yemen, has been the focus of the war for over a year, with the battle for control stymieing United Nations-led peace efforts. The government holds the province’s main city and nearby oil and gas infrastructure.
Marib city is home to 3 million people, including nearly 1 million who fled other parts of Yemen after the Houthis ousted the government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the coalition to intervene months later.
Coalition warplanes have carried out intense air strikes in Yemen, including on Houthi military targets in the capital Sanaa. The group meanwhile has kept up cross-border drone and missile attacks on Saudi cities.
The conflict is largely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.
(Reporting by Mohamed Ghobari and Reyam Mukhashaf; Writing by Mahmoud Mourad and Lisa Barrington; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Catherine Evans)