Flare-up in Yemen violence kills 80 as peace talks stall

Agence France-Presse
A defaced poster of the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is seen on the rubble of a house during a vigil marking one year since a Saudi-led air strike on a residential area in Sanaa, Yemen June 21, 2016.
A defaced poster of the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is seen on the rubble of a house during a vigil marking one year since a Saudi-led air strike on a residential area in Sanaa, Yemen, on June 21, 2016.
Khaled Abdullah

A flare-up in violence across Yemen on Tuesday killed 80 people, nearly half of them civilians, officials said, as lengthy peace talks in Kuwait made no headway.

The escalation came after a wave of suicide bombings targeting Yemeni troops killed at least 42 people on Monday in the southeastern city of Mukalla, in attacks claimed by the Islamic State group.

It also comes as UN-brokered talks between Iran-backed Huthi rebels and the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi stuttered despite a visit by UN chief Ban Ki-moon to push the negotiations.

In the deadliest violence, warplanes from the Saudi-led pro-government coalition killed 34 people, including 19 civilians when they targeted the Shiite rebels in the southwestern region of Taez, a Yemeni military official said.

The pre-dawn strike hit a lorry transporting weapons for the Huthis as it crossed a busy road, a provincial official said, adding four women were among the dead, as well as 15 rebels.

In the flashpoint city of Taez, 11 civilians and a soldier were killed when rebels bombed a residential area, a military official said.

Meanwhile, 12 rebels and three loyalist soldiers were killed in clashes in Nahm, northeast of Sanaa, while six other rebels and two soldiers died in fighting in Marib, east of the capital, the official said.

In the same province, a coalition warplane hit a vehicle carrying pro-government forces "by mistake", killing four soldiers and wounding four others, another military official said.

The Huthis overran the capital in late 2014 before moving into other parts of Yemen, prompting the Saudi-led coalition to intervene in March last year.

The United Nations says more than 6,400 people have been killed in Yemen since then, mostly civilians.

The fighting has also driven 2.8 million people from their homes and left more than 80 percent of the population in need of humanitarian aid.

Talks fail to advance 

Clashes have continued despite a UN-brokered ceasefire that entered into effect on April 11 and paved the way for the peace talks in Kuwait.

In the Gulf emirate, Ban appealed on Sunday to warring parties to accept a roadmap for peace and quickly reach a comprehensive settlement to the 15-month-old conflict.

The peace roadmap proposed by UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed calls for the formation of a unity government and the withdrawal and disarmament of the rebels.

Meanwhile, at least seven civilians including two children were killed in air strikes "probably by drones" on jihadists which mistakenly hit a nearby house in Mahfed, between the provinces of Abyan and Shabwa in Yemen's south, an official told AFP.

US strikes have taken out a number of senior Al-Qaeda commanders in Yemen over the past year.

Washington considers the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as the network's deadliest franchise and has vowed no let-up in its war against the jihadists.

The US military said this month that it had killed six Al-Qaeda fighters in three separate strikes in central Yemen.

Mukalla was under AQAP's control for one year until pro-Hadi troops, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, drove the jihadists out in April.

Both AQAP and IS have exploited the power vacuum created by the conflict in the impoverished country to expand their presence in the south and southeast.