A Yemeni separatist group says it has taken control of the city of Aden, a key port on the Gulf of Aden, after days of clashes with forces associated with the U.N.-backed government.
In a statement provided to international media outlets, the Southern Transitional Council (STC), a Yemeni separatist militant group, announced that it had captured Aden, including important infrastracture and political sites such as the presidential palace, port, and airport. Nizar Haytham, a spokesman for the movement, told CNN, “We are not inside the presidential compound, which is on an island, but we have secured its entrances and exits.”
Fighting began on August 8 as the STC sought to capture the strategic city from forces associated with President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, whose administration is recognized by the U.N. as being the legitimate government of Yemen. Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, has been under the control of the rebel group Ansar Allah for close to five years.
The U.N. said over the weekend that fighting in Aden resulted in the deaths of at least 40 people, with 260 wounded.
Ahmed al-Maysary, the Yemeni interior minister, called the STC’s takeover of Aden a “successful coup” that “destroyed what’s left of this country’s sovereignty.” STC officials indicated they will participate in dialogue over the fighting and that they remain committed to fighting Ansar Allah, but have not made a firm commitment to withdraw from key positions in Aden.
The STC is widely seen as backed by the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia, an ally of the UAE, continues to back President Hadi, however, demonstrating the degree to which the conflict in the south of Yemen has split the two countries, which had engaged in a coalition against Ansar Allah. The UAE downsized its presence in Yemen after the war against Ansar Allah stagnated, but has maintained some personnel in the country.
On Monday, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet King Salman as well as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss the regional situation, with a focus on Yemen.
The STC seeks to restore South Yemen, a formerly independent state that unified with the Yemen Arab Republic in 1990. South Yemen, which became an independent state in 1967, had Aden as its capital.