January 28, 2019 / 8:22 PM / 10 months ago

Rare blast hits Yemen port town of al-Mokha

FILE PHOTO: General view of Al-Mokha port in Yemen, March 6, 2018. Picture taken March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Aziz El Yaakoubi/File Photo

ADEN (Reuters) - A rare blast in the port town of al-Mokha, controlled by the internationally recognised government of Yemen, killed at least six people and injured more on Monday, local officials told Reuters.

Once a thriving coffee exporting hub, al-Mokha is now a heavily guarded naval base for the United Arab Emirates, which is allied to the Saudi-backed government of the internationally recognised Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Yemen’s almost four-year conflict pits the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement against Hadi’s government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, and has sparked a humanitarian crisis in one of the world’s poorest countries.

Local officials said the blast was thought to have been caused by a motorbike bomb and might have been carried out by al Qaeda or Islamic State.

Al-Mokha, located some 75 km (50 miles) north of the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait, and neighbouring al-Khoukha and al-Heiss are among the few towns conceded by Houthi fighters since war started in 2015 after the armed group forced Hadi into exile in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Mokha is one of the military bases used to supply and reinforce coalition-backed forces located on outskirts of Yemen’s largest port Hodeidah, where the United Nations is trying to implement a truce and troop withdrawal.

Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Aden; Writing by Lisa Barrington in Dubai; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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