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Middle East World

Yemen missile launch, deadly air strike shake truce

Houthi fighters ride on the back of a truck as they attend a pro-Houthi tribal gathering in Sanaa, Yemen June 20, 2016

A Saudi-led military coalition said it intercepted a missile fired in Yemen on Tuesday and residents said an air strike by the alliance killed and wounded eight civilians, straining a civil war ceasefire.

The ballistic missile was fired toward the central city of Marib, which is controlled by Saudi-backed government forces, but was intercepted and destroyed along with the source of the launch, the coalition said in a statement without elaborating.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies intervened in a civil war in March 2015 on behalf of the internationally backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi against the Iran-allied Houthi group, which controls the capital Sanaa.

The alliance members fear the movement is a proxy for their arch-rivals in Tehran – something the Houthis deny – and have launched thousands of air strikes in a bid to defeat them.

Peace talks in Kuwait between the government and Houthis have dragged on for two months with few concrete results, while a truce has dampened fighting that killed at least 6,400 people and plunged impoverished Yemen into a humanitarian crisis.

But residents in a mountainous area of Lahj province said a Saudi-led air strike late on Monday targeted Houthi forces who advanced into the area the day before, causing eight civilian casualties. It was not clear how many of those were killed.

A coalition spokesperson did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The strategic Jalis mountain area is near al-Anad, a major military and air base that once hosted U.S. counterterrorism forces deployed to fight Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In the town of Jaar, about 60 km (40 miles) east of Anad, residents said AQAP fighters mobilized at the local prison and freed several inmates.

The militants took advantage of wartime chaos to seize a broad swath of the country but pulled out of Jaar without a fight in May as part of a deal with local tribesmen.

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