THU 22 - 8 - 2019
Aug 8, 2019
The Daily Star
Separatists clash with presidential guards in southern Yemen
SANAA: Yemeni separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates clashed Wednesday with forces loyal to the internationally backed government near the presidential palace in the southern city of Aden, security officials and witnesses said.
But despite having a common enemy, relations between President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi's government and the UAE have been tense amid allegations the Emiratis have offered patronage to southern Yemeni politicians campaigning for secession, as well as what the president perceives as UAE violations of his country's sovereignty.
Wednesday's clashes came amid calls by ex-Cabinet minister Hani Bin Braik, who serves as deputy head of the so-called Southern Transitional Council, to "topple" Hadi's government.
Braik accused Hadi and his forces of being members of or loyal to the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, a pan-Arab political movement that the UAE and some other Arab countries view as a terrorist organization.
The council, led by Aidarous al-Zubaidi, a former Aden governor, was formed after thousands of pro-secessionist Yemenis rallied behind him over the past two years. But the formation of the council is seen by Hadi's government as an act that "targets the country's interests, its future and social fabric."
The U.N. special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, voiced his concern Wednesday over the violence in Aden and called on all parties to abandon violence and resolve their differences through dialogue.
Anwar Gargash, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, said the clashes were alarming and that escalation can't be an option after last week's suicide attack by Daesh (ISIS) in Aden that killed 11 people.
Officials and witnesses said the clashes left at least one presidential guard dead and wounded at least two civilians. Hadi's prime minister and several Cabinet members and high-ranking officials left the presidential palace over the past two days to other areas in the city, they said.
A video circulated online showed presidential guards apparently protecting the palace.
"The presidential palace is OK. All matters are OK. Nobody got past the gate. They did not advance," an armed man says in the video.
A top government official described Braik's calls as an attempted coup backed by the UAE.
"This is a coup by armed militias, clearly backed by the Emiratis. This is not different from the Houthi coup in Sanaa," he said. He was referring to the Houthi takeover of the capital in 2013, ushering in the civil war.
Another video showed a man with an AK-47 assault rifle opening fire while standing at the top of a hill overlooking a funeral possession of a militia leader killed in a Houthi attack last week. Government officials claimed there was a militia plan in place to use the funeral as a cover for their "coup."
The officials said the clashes subsided after Saudi Arabia intervened to calm tensions between both sides.
More troops from the presidential guards were deployed in the district of Crater where the presidential palace is located, the officials said, as forces of the so-called Southern Transitional Council gathered in the district of Khor Maksar. Both districts are in Aden.
The officials demanded anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief the media, while the witnesses who commented feared reprisal.
The clashes come a week after a Houthi missile attack killed a top UAE-backed militia commander, Monier al Yafie, also known by his nickname Aboul Yamama, whose supporters were rallying in Crater to bury his body.
Last week, the Houthis said they fired a ballistic missile at a military parade of the same UAE-trained militia known as the Security Belt, killing at least 40 troops.
The clashes also came several weeks after the UAE said it has begun to draw down its forces, pulling out several thousand troops from Yemen, signaling a major shift in the war. – AP
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