Thousands of Houthis, the Shi’ite Muslim militia which controls much of Yemen, are holding military exercises in the northern part of the country near the border with Saudi Arabia, local tribal and Houthi sources said on Thursday.
The drill in al-Buqa area, which lies in the Houthis’ home province of Saada, involves using different kinds of weaponry, including heavy weapons acquired from the Yemeni army, the sources said.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, regards the Iranian-backed Shi’ite group which seized control of the Yemeni capital Sanaa in September as a terrorist group. In 2009, Riyadh carried out a military operation including air raids against the Houthis after a number of cross-border incursions.
“There is a joint manoeuvre between the army and the Popular Committees,” Houthi commander Mohammad al-Bukheiti told Reuters, referring to the mainly Houthi forces which have fanned out across Yemen since September.
The Yemeni army is divided into factions loyal to different forces, including the current and previous presidents, and have allied themselves with and against the Houthis since their takeover of the capital in September.