In southern Yemen, a wearing-away of Saudi Arabia’s coalition
Wednesday, 21 August 2019
A separatist group in Yemen that is backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has attacked and overtaken two military camps belonging to militants supported by Saudi Arabia, even as their patron countries are ostensibly in one alliance.
On Tuesday, militia from the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) group seized two military camps near Zinjibar, the capital of Yemen’s southern province of Abyan.
The two camps were being operated by militants loyal to ex-Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
Earlier in the day, a spokesperson for the STC had told AFP that the two camps had been surrounded by the separatist militia.
The STC receives patronage from the UAE, whereas the militants fighting on Hadi’s behalf are supported by Saudi Arabia. Abu Dhabi is presumed Riyadh’s main ally in a coalition waging war on Yemen to restore Hadi to power.
Local sources said there were still fierce clashes between the two sides in Zinjibar. The STC militants are believed to have gained the upper hand in the fighting after taking over the two military bases in the area.
Reports said that Mohammad Salem, a commander of the pro-Hadi forces in Abyan, was killed during clashes with the STC.
Yemen under threat of partition, UN warns
Separately on Tuesday, United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffith told the Security Council that war-ravaged Yemen faced the threat of breaking apart unless an agreement ending the persisting conflict is found immediately.
“The fragmentation of Yemen is becoming a stronger and more pressing threat,” said via videolink from Jordan, adding, “The stakes are becoming too high for the future of Yemen, the Yemeni people and the wider region. Yemen cannot wait.”
The Saudi-led coalition invaded Yemen in March 2015 to reinstate Hadi.
The separatists have long eyed independence for southern Yemen. Prodded by the UAE, though, they had agreed to fight under the coalition’s command. Recently, and after a decision by the Emirates to effectively pull its forces from Yemen, the group has turned its weapons to rival militia.
Southern Yemen was a separate country until it merged with the north in 1990.
Early this month, STC forces seized Hadi’s temporary base in Aden port city from his militants on August 10. Some 40 people were killed in the clashes at the time.
Zinjibar is about 60 kilometers from Aden.
According to estimates by the US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), the Saudi-led war has killed more than 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.