Aden: Yemen’s president has criticised what he called the “unacceptable” expulsion from Aden of hundreds of people originating from the north, after loyalists drove Iran-backed rebels out of the southern city.

“The individual acts of expelling citizens of Taiz and other cities (from Aden) is unacceptable,” President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi said late on Sunday, quoted by the official website.

Taiz, he added, was of strategic importance to Aden.

Located in the southwest, Taiz was historically part of northern Yemen, whose residents are viewed as occupiers by many inhabitants of Aden and other provinces in the formerly independent south.

Prime Minister Ahmad Bin Dagher said acts by “dozens do not necessitate in any case expelling hundreds” of northerners from the city, describing the move as “harsh collective punishment against a group of citizens”.

Yemen has been torn by deadly conflict since Iran-backed Al Houthi rebels descended from their northern strongholds and seized the capital Sana’a and other parts of the country since September 2014.

In March last year, pro-government forces and southern fighters backed by a Saudi-led military coalition drove the rebels out of southern regions, including Aden.

But authorities have struggled to secure the city, which the government declared as Yemen’s temporary capital, as attacks attributed to Al Qaida and Daesh increased.

Pro-government activists and coalition commanders accuse former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has allied with Al Houthis, of backing terrorists to carry out attacks against Hadi’s loyalists.

Bin Dagher called for improvements in security for Aden, and appealed against the “punishment” of other people.

The prime minister said Aden’s governor and its security chief needed to “control the actions of all services that operate under their command”.

These acts were “unconstitutional and illegal” as well as against “basic human rights”.

Bin Dagher also appealed for those who have been expelled to “return to practising their normal lives” and ordered authorities in the city to protect them, reported.

Since pushing the rebels out of Aden in July, Yemen’s government has merged southern militiamen, many of them separatists, who fought alongside loyalists into the ranks of the armed forces and security services.

The southern state, known then as People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, was independent before the unification of Yemen in 1990.

In 1994, a short-lived secession bid was crushed by Sana’a troops and since then the citizens of the south have complained of discrimination.

Many northerners who have moved to Aden and other cities of the south are accused by southerners of having benefitted from the previous regime of Saleh to seize land and property in the south.

Last month, thousands of supporters of the separatist Southern Movement demonstrated in Aden for secession of the south.