Yemen’s exiled premier returns, vows to get nation back to “normal”

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– Yemen’s exiled Prime Minister Khaled Bahah returned to the southern city of Aden on Wednesday and pledged to rebuild the country devastated by a war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

“My government will work with all its strength to establish a country where security and stability prevail,” he wrote on Facebook.

“Relief efforts [for those displaced by the war] and reconstruction top the government’s priorities to bring life back to normal,” he continued.

Bahah and his government have been in exile in neighbouring Saudi Arabia since Houthi rebels advanced on the port city in March.

He was accompanied by ministers of interior, telecommunications, planning, social affairs and expatriates.

Shortly after their arrival, militants believed to be linked to al-Qaeda torched St Jospeh Church in central Aden, local journalists reported, sparking a major fire. No casualties were reported.

The church, built in 1852, had been attacked by unknown vandals on Tuesday.

No one has claimed responsibility for either attack.

The few churches in predominantly Muslim Yemen are used by foreign workers.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen, is seen as one of the terrorist network’s most active branches, taking advantage of the conflict between the government and rebels to expand its presence in the impoverished country.

In March, Saudi Arabia and Sunni partners began an air campaign in Yemen after the mostly Shiite Houthi rebels advanced on Aden, forcing the internationally recognized President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi and his government to flee the country.

Hadi, a Sunni, is currently in Saudi Arabia.

In July, Hadi loyalists, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, drove the Houthis out of Aden.

The pro-government forces have since surged across southern Yemen and gained more ground there.

The Houthis, who hail from Yemen’s far north, still control large parts of the country, including the capital Sana’a.

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