Southern forces seized two Yemeni government military bases near the southern port of Aden early yesterday, triggering fresh clashes, residents and officials said.
The forces of Southern Transitional Council (STC) and government are both part of a Saudi-led military coalition battling the Iran-aligned Al Houthi movement, which took over the capital Sana’a in 2014.
But the STC forces broke with the government this month, seizing its temporary base of Aden on August 10. Yesterday, they took two government military bases in Zinjibar, around 60 km east of Aden in Abyan province, residents said.
“What is happening in Abyan is an unjustified escalation by the Southern Transitional Council (STC ),” the Yemeni government foreign ministry said.
Caves storing missiles hit
On another front in the north, the Saudi-led coalition said it launched air strikes overnight on Al Houthi military targets in Sana’a. The coalition said yesterday that its air strikes on Sana’a struck caves storing missiles, drones and weapons.
The assault appeared to be in response to Al Houthi attacks on energy assets in neighbouring Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Al Houthi movement that ousted the internationally recognised government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi from power in Sana’a in late 2014.
The coalition last week threatened military action if the STC do not quit government military bases. Saudi Arabia, which wants the coalition to focus on combating the Al Houthis, has called for a summit over Aden, but it has been delayed due to the STC’s refusal to cede control.
The STC said its forces would hold Aden until the Islamist Islah party, a backbone of Hadi’s government, and northerners are removed from power positions in the south.
STC fighters seized Aden after accusing Islah of being complicit in a Al Houthi missile attack on southern forces earlier this month, a charge the party denies.
The STC seizure of two more bases in Abyan, Hadi’s birthplace, showed they are holding firm to demands for self-rule in the south and to be included in any UN-sponsored talks on Yemen’s future.
“For too long the Southern voice has been excluded from any negotiation table,” STC said in a statement to the UN Security Council ahead of a Yemen briefing yesterday in New York.
“The onus is now on the international community, and in particular the UN Security Council to accept the new realities on the ground.”
Yemeni sources have said the delayed Saudi summit would discuss reshuffling Hadi’s government to include STC to end the crisis.
The Al Houthis has stepped up cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent months.