Date: Tuesday, 30 January 2018
Fighters seeking independence for southern Yemen have seized much of the city
Leaders of Yemen’s Saudi-backed government are reportedly preparing to flee from Aden as fighters from the armed wing of a political movement demanding secession for southern Yemen seized large parts of the city after three days of fighting.
The Southern Transitional Council has been seeking secession from the rest of Yemen for years. Until recently it received support from the United Arab Emirates, causing a fracture in the Saudi-UAE alliance that intervened in Yemen against Houthi rebels who captured the north of the country.
In recent days, leaders in the UAE have been calling on the STC to accept a ceasefire. Last week, the STC gave President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government an ultimatum – either dismiss the prime minister, Ahmed bin Daghr, and his cabinet or face being overthrown.
The STC accused Hadi’s government of “rampant corruption” resulting in a “deteriorating economic, security and social situation never before witnessed in the history of the south”.
Military sources separately told news agencies that the presidential palace in Aden had been surrounded and that Daghr was preparing to leave the country imminently. Those inside the palace were unofficially under house arrest, one source said.
At least 36 people have been killed and 185 wounded due to the violence in Aden since Sunday, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
In addition, 14 soldiers were killed on Tuesday in a suicide attack by suspected Islamist extremists in southern Yemen, a senior military official said. The bombing struck a checkpoint manned by UAE-trained special operations forces in Ataq, capital of the oil-rich province of Shabwa. Islamist networks, including al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and Islamic State , have exploited the war to expand their presence in southern Yemen.
The hostilities in Aden erupted early on Sunday when pro-government troops prevented STC supporters from entering the city for a rally. Separatists have dispatched additional forces from the central province of Marib and the southern province of Abyan, security sources said. The forces from Abyan marched on Aden after clashes with loyalists on the way.
After the separatists seized the government headquarters on Sunday, Daghr denounced a “coup … in Aden against legitimacy and the country’s unity”.
He urged the Saudi-led coalition to intervene in its defence.
The infighting is a blow to western governments including Britain that have been expending enormous diplomatic energy to try to bring Yemen’s civil war to a close.
The UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, held four meetings on the issue last week including a visit to Oman and Saudi Arabia. UK defence officials have been advising the Saudi-led coalition on how to conduct its controversial bombing campaign inside Yemen, although it says it is not involved in targeting decisions.
The US and the UK are convinced that the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have been provided with long-range missiles that have been fired at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, highlighting Yemen’s role as part of the surrogate war between Iran and the Saudis.
Britain has succeeded in securing the removal of the UN special envoy for Yemen after he appeared to have lost the confidence of the Houthis.
Despite coming from the south himself, Hadi has lost much of his support to the STC amid Yemen’s economic crisis. He lives in Saudi Arabia.
Yemen’s war has claimed more than 9,200 lives since Saudi Arabia and its military allies joined the conflict in March 2015, triggering what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.