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Yemen PM says confronting Islamist militants 'inevitable'

AFP , Tuesday 19 Jan 2016
Yemen PM Bahah
Yemen's Prime Minister and Vice President Khaled Bahah gestures as he attends a news conference in Abu Dhabi, UAE January 19, 2016. (Photo: REUTERS)
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Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah said on Tuesday that confronting Islamist militants in government-controlled regions of the war-torn country was inevitable in the future.

Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) group are both active in Yemen, but so far the Yemeni government and its allies have concentrated on battling Iran-backed Shia Houthi rebels.

Eliminating the extremism of the Islamist militants groups will not be resolved though dialogue, Bahah told reporters in Abu Dhabi.

"A confrontation is inevitable, whether it takes place today or tomorrow," he said.

"Today we are facing various forms of terrorism aimed at shedding blood, killing innocent people, destroying cities... and endangering liberated regions" of the country, Bahah added.

The Saudi-led coalition supporting the government with air strikes and ground troops has so far not targeted the Islamist militants even though Al-Qaeda seized the southeastern port city of Mukalla in April.

Loyalist forces have regained control since July of five provinces including the government's temporary capital Aden.

But the government faces a growing Islamist insurgency presence in the city where there have been several attacks and assassinations targeting officials.

"The presence of these groups has hampered efforts to rebuild liberated" towns destroyed by months of deadly fighting between rebels and loyalists, said Bahah who himself escaped a bombing claimed by ISIS in Aden last year.

Bahah, who is also vice president, insisted that his government hoped to return to Sanaa "peacefully... through political consultations."

He did not give a date for the postponed next round of UN-brokered peace talks between the government and the insurgents.

The Yemeni government sat down with the rebels and their allies last month in Switzerland for six days of talks that ended without a major breakthrough.

Foreign Minister Abdulmalek al-Mikhlafi said Saturday that the talks, initially scheduled to start on January 14, had been pushed back until January 20 or 23

More than 5,800 people have been killed in Yemen since the start of the Saudi-led bombing campaign, about half of them civilians, according to the United Nations.

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