ADEN (Reuters) - The chief of staff of the Yemeni army has been injured by a land mine that went off while he was visiting the northern al-Jouf province, where heavy fighting between government forces and Houthi fighters is underway, a senior government official said.
The official said Brigadier General Taher al-Aqeeli suffered minor injuries in the explosion, which happened on Friday while he was inspecting government positions in Khub wa al-Sha‘af, the largest district in al-Jouf province.
Forces loyal to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government captured most of the district in heavy fighting with the Houthis last month.
Anti-Houthi forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, have intensified an offensive against the Iran-aligned group that controls most of northern Yemen since former President Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed after he switched sides in Yemen’s nearly three-year-old civil war.
The Houthis, who killed Saleh after they surrounded his compound in Sanaa, accused the former president of trying to sow sedition in the country. Saleh’s General People’s Congress party accused the Houthis of trying to monopolize running the country.
The Houthis said Aqeeli and several of his aides were injured in the blast, describing Aqeeli’s injuries as serious.
Hadi appointed Aqeeli last September, replacing Major General Mohammed al-Maqdeshi, who was appointed as a presidential adviser.
The United Arab Emirates news agency WAM reported earlier this week that local Yemeni fighters in the southwest, backed by Emirati forces, killed dozens of armed Houthi group members and cut one of their main supply routes to the country’s third largest city of Taiz.
The Houthis, who have swept across Yemen since 2014 and overthrew Hadi’s internationally-recognized government in 2015, hold the capital Sanaa and much of northern Yemen, where most of the country’s 25 million people live.
The conflict - widely seen as a proxy war between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran - has displaced more than 2 million people, caused a cholera epidemic and pushed the country to the brink of famine. At least 10,000 people have been killed.
Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Mark Potter