SANAA, Yemen (AP) – Yemen’s southern separatists on Sunday broke a peace deal with the country’s internationally recognized government and claimed sole control of the regional capital of Aden, threatening to resume fighting between the two ostensible allies.
In a statement, the separatists’ Southern Transitional Council, which is backed by the United Arab Emirates, declared a state of emergency and said it would “self-govern” the key southern port city and other southern provinces. The separatists accused Yemen’s government, which is supported by Saudi Arabia, of corruption and mismanagement.
The government dismissed the separatists’ move. Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdullah al-Hadrami called for Saudi Arabia to have a “clear position” and take “decisive measures against the continuing rebellion of the so-called Transitional Council.”
The division between the two supposed allies is another facet of the country’s complicated civil war. On one side are the separatists and on the other are forces loyal to former President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Both have fought together in the Saudi-led coalition´s war against Yemen´s Shiite Houthi rebels.
The Houthis in 2014 overran major parts of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa, pushing out the internationally recognized government and ushering in a war that has killed tens of thousands of people. Hadi fled first to Aden and then to Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi-led coalition intervened in the conflict in 2015 and has since waged war against the Houthis in an effort to restore Hadi´s government to power. The fighting in the Arab world´s poorest country has also left millions suffering from food and medical care shortages and pushed the country to the brink of famine.
In August, heavy fighting broke out between Hadi´s forces and the southern separatists when the latter took Aden, the temporary seat of Hadi´s government, and key southern provinces. The fighting stopped when the two groups reached a deal in November.
The deal however has yet to be implemented with both sides traded accusations on halting its implementation.
Saturday’s move came amid protests in Aden against Hadi´s government and the separatists following devastating torrential rains and floods earlier this week. The rains plunged swaths of the country under water, causing extensive damage to homes and leaving dozens of people missing, homeless or dead. It forced Hadi´s government to declare a state of emergency in Aden, which was hit hard.
Sunday’s announcement by the separatists raises concerns that Yemen could slide further into chaos amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. Yemen so far has only one confirmed case, in the southern province of Hadramawt, but experts and health workers have warned that the disease could wreak havoc there due to the dilapidated health system and damaged infrastructure.
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DUBAI, Oct 16 (Reuters) – Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and southern separatists are expected to sign a deal to end a power struggle in the southern port of Aden that fractured an Arab coalition battling the Iran-aligned Houthi group, officials said.
The UAE-backed separatist Southern Transition Council (STC) is nominally allied to the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, but the two sides fell out in August, with the separatists seizing control of Aden.
Saudi Arabia has hosted indirect talks between them to rebuild the coalition fighting against the Houthi movement that expelled Hadi’s government from the capital Sanaa five years ago.
Fighting between pro-Hadi forces and the separatists had opened a new front in the multi-faceted war and complicated U.N. peace efforts.
Riyadh has been trying to refocus the coalition on fighting the Houthis on its border. The Houthis have repeatedly launched missiles and drone strikes against Saudi cities during the conflict, widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Two officials in Hadi’s government told Reuters the pact to end the Aden standoff would be signed in Riyadh on Thursday. In a statement carried by the state news agency SABA, the government spokesman Rajeh Badi later said no date has been set for signing the agreement.
Another official in Hadi’s cabinet said talks were still under way and the two sides “may still need a few days” before announcing a deal publicly.
STC leader Aidarous al-Zubaidi, who has been involved in the month-long talks in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, headed to Riyadh on Wednesday, according to a post on his Twitter account.
The deal calls for a government reshuffle to include STC, which seeks self-rule in the south, and the restructuring of armed forces under Saudi supervision, sources from both sides have told Reuters.
Saudi forces took control of Aden after Emirati troops withdrew last week. The move seemingly paved the way for ending the crisis that had exposed differences between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi over how to proceed in the wider war that has been in military stalemate for years.
The UAE already scaled down its presence in Yemen in June as Western pressure mounted to end the conflict that has pushed millions to the brink of famine. But Abu Dhabi retains influence through thousands of Yemeni troops it armed and trained.
Hadi’s government has asked the UAE to stop supporting STC. Abu Dhabi criticised Hadi’s government as ineffective and distrusts Islamists with whom he is allied.
Resolving the power struggle in the south and easing Houthi-Saudi tensions would aid U.N. efforts to restart peace talks to end the war that has killed tens of thousands.
The Houthis last month offered to stop missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia if the coalition ended air strikes on Yemen. Riyadh has said it views the offer “positively”.
The group, which controls Sanaa and most big urban centres, extended the offer after claiming responsibility for a Sept. 14 assault on Saudi oil processing facilities. Riyadh rejected the Houthi claim of responsibility and blames Iran for the attacks, a charge Tehran rejects.
The Houthis deny being puppets of Iran and say they are fighting a corrupt system, pointing to the standoff in Aden as proof Hadi is unfit to rule. (Reporting by Reuters Yemen team; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous and Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Alison Williams)
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Fighters of the UAE-trained Security Belt Force, dominated by members of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) which seeks independence for south Yemen, patrol a street near the Aden International airport on August 28, 2019
Yemen’s separatists have regained full control of the interim capital Aden following clashes with government forces who withdrew from the southern port city, security officials from both sides said Thursday.
“The Security Belt force completely controls the city of Aden along with its entrances,” Haitham Nezar, a spokesman for the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council, told AFP.
A government security source confirmed Aden was under the full control of the STC, saying government troops who entered parts of the city on Wednesday “withdrew from Aden” to the nearby Abyan province.
The internationally-recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi claimed on Wednesday it had seized back Aden from the separatists who captured the strategic city on August 10 after a fierce battle.
Nezar said the Security Belt forces are now setting their sights on Abyan and Shabwa provinces which had been retaken the government troops earlier this week.
“Aden is fine,” STC vice president Hani bin Breik wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
He posted pictures of himself and other southern leaders touring the streets of the city including the airport, while warning fleeing government loyalists of punishment.
Thousands of Security Belt troops, dominated by STC and backed by the UAE, were recalled from several parts of the country, including from Hodeida, to reinforce the STC in Aden.
Bin Breik said that STC forces fighting against the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels in the north were recalled to the south for a major battle.
“We will not remain in the (battle) fronts to liberate the north from the Huthis while the North is invading us,” he said.
The STC is fighting to regain the independence of South Yemen which was an independent country before unification with the north in 1990.
The clashes between the STC and government forces — who for years have fought alongside each other against the Iran-aligned Huthis — have raised concerns that the famine-threatened country could break apart entirely.
The separatists have received support and training from the United Arab Emirates, even though it is a key pillar in the Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government against the Huthi rebels.
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SANAA, Yemen (AP) – The Latest on the situation in Yemen (all times local):
Yemen’s rebels claim they had intelligence and collaboration from inside the southern port city of Aden that enabled them to attack a military parade there the previous day.
The Houthi rebels, who control northern Yemen, had said they fired a medium-range ballistic missile, killing at least 40 militiamen trained by the United Arab Emirates in Aden.
Houthi spokesman Yehia Sarea said in a speech on rebel-run Al-Masirah TV Friday the rebels had gathered “precise intelligence and secured the collaboration of some elements” inside Aden, adding that the attack was part of a pre-emptive strategy aimed at “thwarting plans for escalation by the coalition of aggressors.”
Sarea also claimed they used a new, long-range ballistic missile which they had allegedly manufactured themselves in an attack on Thursday targeting the city of Dammam in Saudi Arabia.
Security forces inspect the site of a deadly attack in Aden, Yemen, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. Yemen’s rebels fired a ballistic missile at a military parade Thursday in the southern port city of Aden as coordinated suicide bombings targeted a police station in another part of the city. The attacks killed over 50 people and wounded dozens. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
There was no confirmation from the kingdom of an attack on Dammam.
The Islamic State group’s affiliate in Yemen has claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a police station in the southern city of Aden the previous day.
That attack killed 11 people and involved suicide bombers using a car, a bus and motorcycles laden with explosives that targeted a police station in the city’s Omar al-Mokhtar neighborhood during a morning police roll-call.
It was one of two major attacks in Aden on Thursday that killed a total of 51 people. The other attack involved a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s rebels at a military parade of rival forces and killed at least 40 troops.
The IS said in a statement posted on Friday on a militant-linked website that it targeted “apostate” officers loyal to the United Arab Emirates.
Yemeni officials and tribal leaders say al-Qaida militants targeted a military camp in southern Abyan province, killing at least 20 troops.
The militants attacked the camp with rocket propelled grenades and automatic rifles around midnight, setting off clashes that lasted until early morning on Friday. The troops targeted are members of a force trained by the United Arab Emirates, a member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels since 2015.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not allowed to talk to reporters. The tribal leaders asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
Al-Qaida’s Yemen branch has exploited the chaos of Yemen’s civil war. The attack came a day after Yemen’s southern city of Aden was hit by double attacks that killed 51 people.
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