Yemen to merge 'resistance' fighters with army

Yemenis watch as smoke billows following clashes between fighters loyal to exiled President Hadi and Huthi rebels, in Aden on July 19, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saleh al-Obeidi)

Aden (AFP) - Yemen's exiled government has issued an order for militiamen fighting alongside loyalist troops against Shiite rebels to be merged into the armed forces, as clashes raged Wednesday in the south.

The supreme defence council, which met in Riyadh on 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 overrun 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.

Saudi-led Arab coalition warplanes carried out several raids in southern Yemen in support of the loyalist forces, military sources said.

The Lahoum area is 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 underlined the collapse of a five-day truce declared from midnight Sunday by the pro-Hadi Arab coalition to allow the delivery of desperately needed relief supplies.

In the rebel-held capital Sanaa, a car bombing claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group near a mosque of the Bohra sect of Shiite Islam killed four people, medical sources and witnesses said.

Four months of fighting have left almost 4,000 people dead, nearly half of them civilians, according to the United Nations.