ADEN (Reuters) - The second-in-command of the Yemeni army was killed on Wednesday when a missile fired by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement hit an army camp, a military source said, the most senior Yemeni officer killed in the country’s civil war.
Major General Ahmed Saif al-Yafei was killed outside the strategic Red Sea coastal city of al-Mokha, which the army captured from the Houthis last month. Several other military personnel, including a colonel, also died in the attack, according to the online Arabic-language Aden al-Ghad newspaper.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s internationally-recognized government, backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition, has been trying to re-take the country from the Houthis for nearly two years. The war has killed more than 10,000 people.
“(Yafei) was killed along with several others when the missile hit the camp near al-Mokha city early this morning,” the military source, who is also a member of the general’s family, told Reuters.
Hadi’s presidential office said in a statement carried by the government-run news agency that Yafei died “while carrying out his heroic role of liberating the remainder of the al-Mokha district” from the Houthis. It gave no further details.
The Houthi-run news agency said its fighters targeted a vehicle in which Yafei was traveling on the outskirts of al-Mokha.
Aden al-Ghad said that the bodies of several officers who died in the attack along with Yafei have arrived at a hospital in the southern Yemeni city of Aden, where Hadi’s government is based.
It identified one of them as a colonel and said several of Yafei’s bodyguards were also among the dead.
Hadi supporters, backed by Gulf Arab troops, captured al-Mokha last month after weeks of heavy fighting around the small but strategic port city that had once served as a main port for exporting coffee.
Al-Mokha lies close to the Bab al-Mandab strait through which much of the world’s oil passes.
In a separate incident, a Saudi police corporal was killed by shells fired by the Houthis on the town of Dhahran al-Janoub in southern Saudi Arabia, the local civil defense department said on its Twitter account. An expatriate man was also injured in the attack, it said.
The Houthis have regularly fired rockets towards Saudi cities and villages over the past two years. The Houthis say their attacks are in response to Saudi strikes on Yemeni cities and villages.
Reporting by Mohamed Mukashaf; Writing by Tom Finn and Sami Aboudi; Editing by Toby Chopra