Deadly clashes between Saudi and UAE backed fighters as rift deepens in Yemen war

 28 Jan 2018 - 19:23

Deadly clashes between Saudi and UAE backed fighters as rift deepens in Yemen war
Fighters from Yemen's southern separatist movement gather in a street of the country's second city of Aden on January 28, 2018, during clashes with forces loyal to the Saudi-backed president. AFP / SALEH AL-OBEIDI


ADEN/MARIB, Yemen: At least ten fighters were killed and 30 wounded as southern Yemeni separatists fought government troops in the southern city of Aden on Sunday, local medics said, deepening a rift between forces that had been on the same side.

The worst clashes yet between southern separatists, who are allied to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and forces loyal to the Saudi-based government risk crippling their once united war effort against the Houthi movement in Yemen's north.

Yemen has been torn apart by three years of conflict between the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Houthi, and the factional fighting in the south compounds the misery.

The fighting broke out after the expiry of a deadline imposed last week by separatists from the Southern Transitional Council (STC) for Hadi to dismiss the government of Ahmed bin Daghr, accusing it of corruption and mismanagement.

Gunmen were deployed throughout most districts of Aden on Sunday and there was heavy automatic gunfire and explosions in the southern port city, according to Reuters witnesses.

Armed separatists appeared to gain the upper hand by wresting a key military base and several government buildings from soldiers loyal to Hadi, local newspaper Aden al-Ghad reported on its website. Residents said that hundreds of pro-Southern demonstrators had gathered in the main square.

Several hospitals said at least 10 fighters were killed in the fighting and 30 others were wounded.

Bin Daghr called for a truce and instructed forces loyal to his government to return to their barracks, the government-controlled Saba news agency reported.

Bin Daghr had earlier denounced the separatists' actions as a coup and said the outcome of the contest in Aden was in the hands of their backers, the UAE, who enjoy overall control in the city, and warned that the situation was headed toward "a comprehensive military confrontation ... (which is) a direct gift to the Houthis and Iran".

"This is a serious matter and the coalition and Arabs as a whole must move to save the situation," bin Daghr wrote in a message on his Facebook page. "The matter is in their hands and the hope, as we see in the government see it, is on the (United Arab) Emirates."

Although Hadi remains in exile in Saudi Arabia, his administration and local allies nominally control about four-fifths of Yemen's territory, but political and military leaders in Aden now want to revive the former independent state of South Yemen.

The STC last week accused Hadi's cabinet of corruption and inefficiency and demanded they quit.

A senior southern political source accused the government of pushing the dispute toward an armed showdown.

"The Hadi government was nervous about any demonstration by the people, so they tried to stop it by force thinking that if there were a battle, the coalition would intervene and save them," the source said.