Sana’a and Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—The governor of Yemen’s southern Aden province revealed on Wednesday that Iranian fighters have been caught among the Houthi militias currently in control of large parts of Yemen.
Naif Al-Bakri told Asharq Al-Awsat forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi “have taken hostage a number of Iranians and fighters from other nationalities” following their recent victories in the Aden, Lahj, and Abyan provinces.
Bakri added that “among the hostages and those killed are several specialists, fighters, and military cadres” from different nationalities including Iran and that the hostages were currently being questioned.
Recent reports from Aden and elsewhere in the country have suggested the presence of Iranian fighters among the Houthis, with fighters from the Popular Resistance telling Asharq Al-Awsat in recent weeks they had found Iranian-marked weapons and supplies in Houthi positions vacated by the group.
Several sources have also told Asharq Al-Awsat in recent months that Iranian operatives including military experts have been present in Yemen’s capital Sana’a, which the Houthis currently control.
The latest revelation by Aden’s governor would, however, if true be the first time direct proof has been uncovered of an Iranian presence among Houthis ranks in Yemen.
The Houthis, backed by Iran and ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have been in control of Sana’a since September of 2014 and launched a coup in February this year deposing President Hadi and the country’s government.
After a month-long house arrest imposed on him by the Houthis, Hadi fled to Aden and then Saudi Arabia in March and requested the Kingdom and its Arab allies intervene with military force in the country in order to restore political legitimacy in the country.
The Saudi-led air campaign against the Houthis in Yemen began on March 26.
The campaign was briefly paused from Sunday evening due to a five-day ceasefire declared by the Saudi-led coalition to allow humanitarian supplies to reach Yemenis caught up in the conflict, which in addition to the strikes has also seen fierce fighting on the ground between the Houthis and Hadi loyalists.
However, the airstrikes quickly resumed after the Houthis broke the terms of the truce and continued military action and targeting civilians throughout the country as the ceasefire began.
A previous ceasefire offer from the Arab coalition was extended to the Houthis in May, but the group again resumed hostile activities just as the truce began, leading the coalition to resume airstrikes.
The coalition said in a statement last week that it reserved the right to restart airstrikes should the Houthis fail to respect the current ceasefire.
On Wednesday the coalition said it had launched a series of air raids on Houthi militias and forces loyal to Saleh in the Houthis’ northern stronghold of Saada.
Fighting also continues on the ground between Hadi loyalists and Houthis militias for the strategic Al-Anad Airbase, some 35 miles (60 kilometers) north of Aden, in the southern Lahj province.
Fahd Al-Zayabi contributed additional reporting to this article.