ADEN (Reuters) – The vice president of Yemen's exiled government in Riyadh declared on Friday that the southern port city of Aden was now under the control of Saudi-backed fighters after days of battling with the country's dominant Houthi militia.
Residents & local fighters said low-level clashes were continuing in the Tawahi district in the west of the city to sweep the Houthis from one of their last redoubts.
"We congratulate the people of Aden & the Republic of Yemen as whole for what has been achieved in the last two days … The government announces the liberation of Aden province," Khaled Bahah said on his official Facebook page.
p> Aden has been a focus of fighting since the Houthis first laid siege to it in March when it was home to the government which subsequently fled to Saudi Arabia.
Once one of the world's busiest ports, Aden sits near the Bab al-Mandab shipping lane, a major energy gateway for Europe, Asia & the United States via the Red Sea & the Suez Canal.
The Shi'ite Muslim Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in September & pushed into Yemen's south & east in March & April in what they say is a revolution against a corrupt government & hardline Sunni Muslim militants.
More than three months of air strikes by the Saudi-led Arab coalition & a civil war has killed at least 3,500 people & rendered more than 20 million of its 25 million residents in need of some form of humanitarian aid.
Ali Al-Ahmedi, spokesman for the local fighters in Aden, told Reuters that dozens of Houthi fighters had surrendered themselves to the militiamen as they lost ground.
The advances began on Tuesday when local fighters seized the city's international airport, followed by the main sea port the next day, then one district after another.
Fighters said they were advancing toward the Anad air base 60 km (40 miles) north of Aden with backing from air strikes.
Nevertheless, on the Muslim feasting holiday of Eid, food & basic supplies were being blocked at Houthi checkpoints on the city's outskirts, residents said.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari & Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Louise Ireland)