ADEN, Aug 20, (Agencies): Southern separatists seized two Yemeni government military bases near the southern port of Aden early on Tuesday, triggering fresh clashes between nominal allies that have complicated UN peace efforts, residents and officials said.
The separatists and government are both part of a Saudi-led military coalition battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which took over the capital Sanaa and most major cities in 2014. But the separatists broke with the government this month, seizing its temporary base of Aden on Aug 10. On Tuesday, they took two government military bases in Zinjibar, around 60 km (40 miles) east of Aden in Abyan province, residents said. “What is happening in Abyan is an unjustified escalation by the Southern Transitional Council (STC – the separatists),” the Yemeni government foreign ministry said. On another front in the north, the Saudi- led coalition said it launched air strikes overnight on Houthi military targets in Sanaa. The coalition said on Tuesday that its air strikes on Sanaa struck caves storing missiles, drones and weapons.
The assault appeared to be in response to Houthi attacks on energy assets in neighbouring Saudi Arabia on Saturday. The violence and cracks in the coalition could hamper United Nations efforts to push forward peace agreements and talks to end a war that has killed tens of thousands and driven the poorest Arabian Peninsula country to the brink of famine. The Western-backed, Sunni Muslim coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Houthi movement that ousted the internationally recognised government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi from power in Sanaa in late 2014.
Divisions have spread, with the war – widely seen as a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and regional rival Shi’ite Iran – largely stuck in stalemate. The coalition last week threatened military action if the separatists do not quit government military bases. Saudi Arabia, which wants the coalition to focus on combating the Houthis, has called for a summit over Aden, but it has been delayed due to the separatists’ refusal to cede control.