Yemen militia seizes key airbase near president Hadi's refuge

ADEN (AFP) - Yemeni anti-government forces on Wednesday captured a major airbase near President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's southern refuge just days after US military personnel were evacuated, an army official said.

Yemen has allowed Washington to wage a long-standing drone war against Al-Qaeda militants in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state, which borders oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

"The Huthis (Shiite militia) took control of Al-Anad airbase," following "limited clashes" with forces loyal to Hadi, the official told AFP.

US military personnel stationed at Al-Anad were evacuated on Friday because of security concerns.

Yemen has acknowledged that American personnel at the base were gathering intelligence for drone strikes before they pulled out.

After seizing Al-Anad, anti-Hadi forces advanced farther south and were just three kilometres (nearly two miles) away from Huta, the capital of Lahj province which is adjacent to Aden, the military official said.

The Huthi militia, backed by troops allied to former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, have clashed with forces loyal to Hadi in at least two southern provinces as they push towards Aden.

Saleh, who resigned in 2012 following nationwide protests, has been accused of backing the Shiite militia as he seeks to regain influence.

The Huthis seized the airport and a nearby military base Sunday in Taez, 180 kilometres (110 miles) north of Aden and seen as a strategic entry point to Hadi's southern stronghold.

Yemen is increasingly divided between a north controlled by the Huthis, allegedly backed by Iran, and a south dominated by Hadi supporters.

The UN Security Council, Western countries and Gulf Arab monarchies have backed Hadi as the country's legitimate ruler.

On Tuesday, Hadi called for the UN Security Council to pass a binding resolution asking countries to provide immediate support "by all means and measures to protect Yemen and deter the Huthi aggression expected to occur at any hour from now" in several strategic cities, including Aden.