Yemen to merge 'resistance' fighters with army

ADEN - The exiled Yemeni government has issued an order for militiamen fighting alongside loyalist troops against Shiite rebels be merged into the armed forces, as clashes raged Wednesday in the country's south.

The supreme defence council, which met in Riyadh Tuesday, decided to "assimilate members of the Popular Resistance into the units of the armed forces and security forces," the government-run news agency said.

The meeting, headed by President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, took the decision to reward them for their "brave contribution to defending the homeland." Popular Resistance units were formed when the Iran-backed rebels and their allies advanced on southern regions after they had overran the capital in September.

Meanwhile, clashes raged in the south, where pro-government forces expanded their area of control after recapturing the port of Aden, Yemen's second city, after four months of fighting.

The loyalists pushed back rebels in Lahoum, on Aden's northern outskirts, following heavy fighting in which 12 rebels were killed, military sources said.

Three pro-Hadi fighters were killed and dozens wounded, medical sources said.

The area lies on the road to Lahj, where loyalists have been tightening the noose on rebels, with the aim of recapturing the strategic Al-Anad airbase.

The clashes further evidenced the failure to take hold of a five-day truce declared from midnight Sunday by the Saudi-led, pro-government Arab coalition to allow the delivery of desperately needed relief supplies.

Four months of fighting has left 3,984 people dead, nearly half of them civilians, according to the United Nations.

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