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UAE Armed Forces officer killed in Saudi-led coalition operation

ABU DHABI // A UAE serviceman died while “performing his national duty” with Saudi-led coalition forces, state news agency Wam announced on Thursday.

Lt Abdul Aziz Sarhan Saleh Al Ka’abi was killed while participating in Operation Restoring Hope, in support of the internationally-recognised Yemen government of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, said the UAE General Command of the Armed Forces.

Prayers over the body of Lt Al Ka’abi were held at midnight on Thursday at Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Al Ain, followed by a burial at Hili Cemetery.

Thousands of Emiratis took to Twitter to offer condolences following the announcement, with many using the hashtag #UAE’s_Martyr_Abdulaziz_Al_Kaabi.

Among those offering their condolences on Twitter was Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, who posted a prayer for the officer. Dr Gargash also said that the Emirati’s blood was his greatest sacrifice.

Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan, Deputy Chief of Police and Public Security in Dubai, also tweeted his condolences.

The announcement came amid reports that senior members of Yemen’s exiled government flew into the second city of Aden on Thursday to prepare for the return of the Hadi administration. It was the first visit by the exiled leaders since the Houthi rebels and allies entered the southern port city in March, forcing Mr Hadi and his government to flee to neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The visit by ministers and intelligence officials follows military setbacks for the Houthis at the hands of Saudi-backed Yemeni fighters, which may mark a turning point in the conflict that has killed more than 3,000 people.

Arriving by helicopter at a military airbase on Aden’s western approaches, the group included the ministers of the interior and transport, the former interior minister, the intelligence chief, and the deputy head of the house of representatives.

“Abdrabu Mansur Hadi delegated this group to return to Aden to work to prepare the security situation and ensure stability ahead of a revival of the institutions of state in Aden,” a local official said.

Local fighters have wrested Yemen’s airport and main seaport from the northern militia group in the past two days in fighting that killed dozens of people, according to medical sources.

Fighting intensified in Aden on Thursday as Saudi-backed troops pushed to drive the Shiite rebels out of several neighbourhoods they control.

The Houthis fired Katyusha rockets that landed in the vicinity of the airport early on Thursday, killing three anti-rebel fighters, said a government official.

He said the Saudi-trained Yemeni troops had also taken control of the Crater neighbourhood, the commercial hub of Aden that houses a presidential palace. Armoured vehicles were patrolling the streets of the neighbourhood to ensure it has been cleared of rebels, he said.

A senior military official said fighting had raged in Aden’s banking district for hours, and although the rebels had fled, troops and local militias continued to search for stragglers.

The Saudi-backed troops and fighters, along with Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, had pushed the rebels out of the airport on Tuesday. It was at the outset of an offensive led by troops trained in Saudi Arabia and planned for over a month, the government official said.

Speaking to the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya Al Hadath TV, Brig Gen Ahmed Al Asiri, the Saudi-led coalition’s spokesman, praised the “heroic efforts” of Yemeni fighters.

Mr Al Asiri said the operation had been successful so far because of “the element of surprise” and added: “We need to have patience and perseverance now.”

* Agencies

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(via The National)