Yemeni government returns to Aden after months in exile: Spokesman

ADEN, YEMEN: Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah returned to the southern port of Aden on Wednesday in a step towards restoring a government on home soil after months of working from exile with Gulf Arab allies to fight against Houthi control of the country.

Government spokesman Rajeh Badi said Bahah, who is also vice president, was accompanied by seven ministers when he arrived in Aden, which loyalist fighters backed by Saudi-led troops recaptured from Houthi forces in July.

"Khaled Bahah and the ministers who arrived with him are in Aden to stay permanently," Badi said.

Bahah's return from Saudi Arabia follows that of several other Yemeni ministers who relocated to Aden from the kingdom in the weeks after the city was retaken in July. Bahah made a brief visit to Aden on Aug. 1.

President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi fled Aden for the Saudi capital Riyadh in March as Houthi forces closed in. Since its recapture, loyalist forces supported by Saudi-led coalition air strikes have pushed northwards and driven back the Iranian-allied Houthis.

Gulf Arab ground forces and loyalists have now launched an offensive in Marib province east of Sanaa seeking to drive the Houthis out of the capital, which the movement seized in September 2014.

The exiled government pulled out of U.N.-sponsored peace talks at the weekend but Badi said on Tuesday it was ready to join them if its Houthi foes publicly accepted a U.N. resolution calling on them to recognize Hadi as president and quit Yemen's main cities.

Speaking at a news conference at Aden's al-Qasr hotel on Wednesday, Badi said that "the security file, reconstruction and incorporating the southern resistance into the army" were at the top of the government's agenda, according to the local Aden al-Ghad news website

The city of one million had been gripped by chaos and lawlessness since the Houthis retreated.

Local officials say some 300 local police officers have returned to work since July and some police stations have resumed operations with the help of advisors from the United Arab Emirates.

But residents complain that local authorities have been slow in seeking to restore basic services and clean up debris and garbage that had accumulated on the streets after heavy fighting.

Residents also say that fighters from out of town, including some affiliated to al Qaeda, had been seen on the streets of the city, raising fears it is being taking over by Islamist militants.

Last month, the city was rocked by a number of incidents, including an explosion next to the governor's office. A Christian cemetery dating from British rule of Aden that ended nearly 50 years ago was also vandalized.

In the latest attack, assailants set fire to the Church of Saint Joseph, a local official said. The contents of the church were completely burned.

"The decision of the government to return to Aden has to be taken immediately before the collapse of the security situation and services," said Lutfi Shatara, a leader of Herak -- a local political coalition seeking to restore the former South Yemen, which merged with the northern part of the country in 1990.

The conflict has killed more than 4,500 people over nearly six months



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