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Yemen: UAE-backed Giants Brigades begin withdrawing from Shabwah

The pro-government group has begun repositioning its forces to Marib after clashes with Houthi rebels proved successful
The Giants Brigades gather on the outskirts of Ataq city, east of the Red Sea port of Aden, on their way to the frontline, 28 January 2022 (AFP)

The UAE-trained militia, the Giants Brigades, have begun withdrawing from a key frontline of the Yemeni conflict after delivering a series of blows to the Houthi rebels. 

The Giants Brigades said it was repositioning its forces after driving the rebels out of the Shabwah province and beginning a push north towards Marib, the strategically important city that the Houthis have been trying to capture for months. 

The surprise announcement followed two drone and missile attacks by the Iran-aligned Houthis on the UAE, one of which resulted in the deaths of three oil workers.

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In a statement sent to AFP, it said, "After the great success achieving by the Giants Brigades…it began transferring its brigades to the main headquarters.

"The Brigades repositioned its forces in Shabwah governorate after liberating the districts of Bihan and Harib and securing them completely from the Houthi militia."

Fighting as part of the Saudi-led pro-government coalition, the Giants Brigades severely affected the Houthi campaign after moving into Shabwah.

On 15 November, the fighters were sent from their base on the Red Sea coast "to support the Yemeni government in its battle on all fronts," the coalition said. 

After driving them out of Shabwah, they also took Harib, a district in the Marib province, as they looked set to press on towards Marib city, the last northern holdout that had been under rebel pressure for months.

The defeat in Shabwah led the rebels, who control most of the north and the capital Sanaa, to seize a UAE-flagged ship on 3 January before launching their deadly strike on Abu Dhabi two weeks later.

Saudi-led Intervention

Saudi-led coalition forces launched their intervention against the rebels in March 2015. The coalition, which includes the UAE-backed militia fighters, has intensified its campaign over the past few months. 

Since 25 December, the Saudi-led coalition launched a "large-scale" attack on Yemen's capital, Sanaa, after missiles fired by the Houthis killed two people in Saudi Arabia, the first such deaths in three years.

An air strike last week on the Houthi heartland city of Saada killed at least 70 people, including many African migrants held in a jail that was targeted.

According to the United Nations, the seven-year-war in Yemen has resulted in more than 233,000 deaths and millions more displaced, referring to it as one of the worst humanitarian crises globally.