UAE-trained Giants Brigades pull out of key Yemen battleground
A United Arab Emirates-trained militia that delivered a series of defeats to Yemen's Houthi rebels has begun withdrawing from a key area of the conflict, it announced on Friday.
The Giants Brigades said it was repositioning its forces after driving the rebels out of Shabwa province and beginning a push north towards Marib, the strategically vital city that the Iran-backed Houthis have been trying to capture for months.
The surprise announcement followed two drone-and-missile attacks by the Houthi rebels on the UAE, the first of which killed three oil workers.
"After the great success achieved by the Giants Brigades... it began transferring its brigades to the main headquarters," said a statement sent to AFP.
"The Brigades repositioned its forces in Shabwa governorate after liberating the districts of Bihan and Harib and securing them completely from the Houthi militia," it added.
The Giants Brigades, fighting as part of the Saudi-led pro-government coalition, dealt a serious blow to the Houthi campaign after moving into Shabwa.
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 on November 15.
After driving the Houthis out of Shabwa, they also took Harib district in Marib province and looked set to press on towards Marib city, the government's last northern holdout that has been under Houthi pressure for months.
After their defeats in Shabwa, the Houthis seized a UAE-flagged ship on January 3 before launching their deadly strike on Abu Dhabi two weeks later.
In the early hours of Monday, UAE and US forces scrambled to intercept two ballistic missiles over Abu Dhabi, lighting up the night sky over the wealthy Emirati capital.
Saudi-led coalition forces launched their intervention against the Houthis in March 2015, the start of a conflict that has directly cost more than 150,000 lives and displaced millions of people.