DAMASCUS, SYRIA (10:20 PM) – At least 10 people are reported dead, along with over 100 wounded, as clashes between South Yemen separatist militias and Saudi-backed forces of the Hadi regime battle over control of the key port city of Aden. This was reported by local medics to Reuters.
These clashes are the worst to date between the Southern Transitional Council (STC), which is backed by the United Arab Emirates, and the regime of former Yemeni president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is being propped up by Saudi Arabia. The erupting conflict has caused a rift between two former allies, and could possibly cripple their combined war effort against the revolutionary government in Sana’a, which is led by Ansarullah (also known as the Houthi movement).
Fighting lasted most of Sunday, ending temporarily when a truce was enacted by Hadi’s “prime minister” Ahmed bin Daghr, followed by a return of all Hadi loyalist forces to their military bases.
Fighting broke out early on Sunday, when the deadline set by the STC demanding Hadi to dissolve the bin Daghr administration expired. The separatists responded to the lack of response on Hadi’s behalf by deploying forces all over Aden, resulting in deadly violence. For the time being, the STC seems to have the upper hand, as they captured a key military base in the Khor Maksar district of Aden, as well as several government buildings, according to local newspaper Aden al-Ghad.
The Southern Transitional Council is the top leadership of the South Yemen Movement, which seeks independence of the southern half of the country. South Yemen was independent from 1967 to 1990, when it merged with the North. In 1994, the South Yemen Movement unsuccessfully revolted against the unified state a first time, but has remained politically active since.
When a Saudi-led coalition invaded Yemen in March 2015 in order to bring down the revolutionary Ansarullah government and bring Hadi back to power, the STC joined the invaders, and received extensive support from the United Arab Emirates. However, tensions soon arose between them and Hadi loyalists who also had made their capital in Aden.
Prime Minister of the Hadi regime Ahmed bin Daghr, wrote in an official statement that “This is a serious matter and the coalition and Arabs as a whole must move to save the situation (…) The matter is in their hands and the hope, as we in the government see it, is on the [United Arab] Emirates.”
The STC, from its side, released a statement accusing the Hadi regime of having started the hostilities by opening fire on peaceful pro-independence protests.
“The STC holds the bin Daghr government fully responsible after it violated the Arab coalition’s call for calm and used weapons to prevent demonstrators from reaching the parades square,” the separatist organisation wrote.