Some 200 pro-government fighters were killed in Yemen and more than 1,000 taken prisoner in an August offensive near the Saudi border by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, a loyalist source and the rebels said Sunday.
The Houthis, who are fighting a Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen’s long-running conflict, had claimed a mass capture of Saudi forces in the offensive, but a press conference on Sunday was short on proof.
The three-day “large-scale” operation was launched on August 25, Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree said, showing footage purportedly of the attack near the southern Saudi region of Najran.
The Yemeni government source confirmed to AFP that some 200 soldiers were killed in the attack.
The Houthis said more than 200 pro-government fighters were killed in dozens of missile and drone strikes.
“Over 2,000 fighters were taken prisoner,” the Houthi spokesman added, saying most of them were Yemeni but that they also included other prisoners, without elaborating.
The government source said the number of prisoners was “less than” the Houthis claimed, estimating “the number is about 1,300 soldiers,” including 280 wounded.
The Yemeni troops had been surrounded for four days by the Houthis in the rebels’ northern stronghold of Saada province, he said.
The Houthi video purportedly showing the offensive contained footage of an attack on armored vehicles, with some of them ablaze, and men marching along a dirt road with their hands in the air, but they were not in uniform.
It also shows seized arms and ammunition.
A small number of captured men tell the camera that they are Saudi but do not offer any identification.
The coalition had no response to Houthi claims a day earlier that Saudi troops were among those taken captive.
The Houthis have made a series of big announcements in recent weeks, including an offer to halt drone and ballistic missile attacks on Saudi Arabia as part of efforts to end the war.
The rebels also claimed responsibility for massive September 14 attacks on Saudi oil installations that knocked out half of the OPEC kingpin’s production and sent shockwaves through world energy markets.
However, the United States and Saudi Arabia blamed Iran, saying the strikes were carried out with advanced weaponry that was beyond the capability of the Houthis.
Riyadh and its allies intervened in Yemen’s civil war in March 2015 to bolster the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi after the Houthis seized much of the country, including the capital Sanaa.
Since then, tens of thousands of people – most of them civilians – have been killed in fighting that has pushed the country to the brink of famine.
The conflict has displaced millions and left more than two-thirds of the population in need of aid.