BFF-36 Yemen forces enter Aden, driving out southern separatists

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YEMEN-CONFLICT-SOUTH

Yemen forces enter Aden, driving out southern separatists

ADEN, Aug 28, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Yemen government forces entered the
interim capital Aden and recaptured a nearby province on Wednesday, pushing
back separatists who had seized parts of the south this month.

The losses came nearly three weeks after the pro-independence Southern
Transitional Council (STC) seized control of Aden, the government’s base
since Huthi rebels took over the northern capital Sanaa in 2014.

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’ seizure of Aden was seen as a major gain allowing the
Security Belt, a paramilitary force loyal to the STC, to press on to take
other strategic areas.

However, the Yemeni government has drafted in reinforcements from the
north and mounted a pushback that appears to have met little resistance.

“The national army and security services reached at this moment the
interim capital and begin to secure districts,” Yemeni Information Minister
Moammer al-Eryani said on Twitter.

The main gate of the city’s airport had also been secured, he added.

An AFP correspondent in the east of the city witnessed shelling by
advancing government forces who came fresh from their success in taking back
control of Abyan province to the east.

A pro-government source told AFP that fighting had erupted in the streets
of Aden, as loyalist troops fanned out there.

Eryani also said “heroes of the national army and security agencies have
retaken Zinjibar city, the capital of Abyan province, and complete their
control over other districts of the province.”

Abyan was the second southern province to be retaken by government forces
in southern Yemen in days following clashes with the Security Belt.

Earlier in the week, government forces regained control of Shabwa province
after beating back an attack by STC forces.

The Yemeni interior ministry issued a statement urging the separatists to
“lay down their arms” and surrender.

– Wider rift –

The new fighting comes despite repeated calls for a ceasefire by a Saudi-
led coalition, which intervened in the Yemen war in 2015 in support of the
government after the Huthis seized the capital Sanaa and most of the Arab
world’s poorest nation.

Since then, the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly
civilians, in what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst
humanitarian crisis.

While they have also fought against the Huthis in a years-long war, STC
forces want to see South Yemen regain the independence it gave up with
unification in 1990.

The separatists want to address what they say is a history of exploitation
and marginalisation of their people.

“We will sail together towards the safe harbour chosen by our people who
have fought for this for so long,” STC leader Aidarous al-Zoubeidi — a
popular and charismatic figure in the south — said in a speech on Tuesday.

The separatists have received support and training from the United Arab
Emirates, even though the latter is a key pillar in the Saudi-led coalition
backing the Yemeni government against the Huthi rebels.

The Yemeni government has repeatedly accused the UAE of “being responsible
for the armed rebellion” in the south and urged it to stop backing “this
militia”.

Analysts say the break between Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s
internationally-recognised government and the separatists reflects a wider
rift between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

But the UAE has rejected accusations it supported the separatists in their
seizure of Aden and said it was “exerting all efforts to de-escalate the
situation in Yemen”.

In a joint statement this week, Saudi Arabia and the UAE called for
cooperation with a coalition committee and for peace talks in the Saudi city
of Jeddah.

BSS/AFP/BZC/1855HRS