Date: Aug 21, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Separatists in south Yemen seize govt facilities near Aden
ADEN: Southern separatists seized most Yemeni government security and military bases near the port of Aden Tuesday after clashes between nominal allies that have complicated U.N. peace efforts, residents and officials said. The separatists and the Yemeni government are both part of an Arab military coalition battling the Iran-backed Houthi movement, which took over the capital Sanaa in the north and most major cities in 2014.

But the separatists broke with the government when they seized its temporary base of Aden on Aug. 10. Tuesday, they took over military police, special forces and military brigades camps in Zinjibar, around 60 km east of Aden in Abyan province, local officials said.

This effectively put control of the Abyan capital in the hands of the United Arab Emirates-backed separatists, who seek self-rule in the south, and further weakened the government of Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi, who resides in the Saudi capital Riyadh. “What is happening in Abyan is an unjustified escalation by the Southern Transitional Council [the separatists],” Hadi’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

On another front in the north, the coalition said it carried out airstrikes overnight on Houthi military targets in Sanaa. The coalition said its airstrikes pounded caves storing missiles, drones and weapons. The assault appeared to be a response to Houthi attacks on energy assets in neighboring Saudi Arabia Saturday.

The violence and cracks in the coalition are hampering United Nations efforts to advance peace deals elsewhere in the country and talks to end a war that has killed tens of thousands and driven the Arabian Peninsula country to the brink of famine.

The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Houthis, who ousted Hadi’s internationally recognized government from power in Sanaa.

Divisions have spread, with the war - widely seen as a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Shiite regional rival Iran - largely mired in stalemate.

Riyadh, which wants the coalition focused on combating the Houthis, has called for a summit over Aden, but it has been delayed due to the separatists’ refusal to cede control.

The separatists’ seizure of bases in Abyan, Hadi’s birthplace, showed they are holding firm to demands to govern the south and be included in shaping Yemen’s future.

“For too long the southern voice has been excluded from any negotiation table,” STC said in a statement to the U.N. Security Council ahead of a Yemen briefing Tuesday in New York.

“The onus is now on the international community, and in particular the U.N. Security Council, to accept the new realities on the ground.”

The government, in a letter to the UNSC, reiterated a call on the UAE to stop backing separatist forces. U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths, speaking in New York, said the fragmentation of Yemen risked “becoming a stronger and more pressing threat” if the situation in the south continued.

The separatists, who accuse Hadi’s government of mismanagement, aspire to revive South Yemen - which was a separate country before unification with the north in 1990.

Yemeni sources have said a Saudi summit could reshuffle Hadi’s government to include STC to end the crisis. The Houthis, who say their revolution is against corruption, point to Aden as proof that Hadi is unfit to rule.

They are also trying to raise their profile, visiting Tehran last week where they met with European diplomats. They also named an envoy to Iran, and Iran appointed one in return.

Tribal leaders, meanwhile, warned that the clashes could pave the way for a comeback of Al-Qaeda militants, given that Abyan was a stronghold for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.