SANAA (Dispatches) – Yemen’s southern separatists vowed on Wednesday to keep control over Aden, warning the only way out of the impasse that has fractured a Saudi-led military alliance was for northerners to be removed from all positions of power in the south.
The separatists, who are supported by coalition member the United Arab Emirates, effectively took over Aden, the temporary seat of the Saudi-backed former regime, over the weekend by seizing military bases.
Southern militants are a major component in the coalition’s battle against the Houthis. But the war has revived old strains between north and south Yemen - formerly separate countries that united into a single state in 1990 under then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The United Nations says at least hundreds of people have been killed and wounded in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden during infighting between groups of militia receiving support from either Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.
"Scores of civilians have been killed and wounded since August 8 when fighting broke out in the city of Aden. Preliminary reports indicate that as many as 40 people have been killed and 260 injured,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen Lise Grande said in a statement.
She said civilians "need to be able to move freely and safely to secure the things they need to survive,” an indication that movement is restricted in the city.
The infighting erupted last Wednesday, when a group of separatist militia in southern Yemen was attending a funeral for dozens of fellows, including a senior militant commander who had been killed in a missile attack by Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement.
The separatists, which are backed by the UAE and are known as the Southern Transitional Council (STC), accused a political party allied to Saudi-backed forces of complicity in the missile attack and clashes broke out between the sides.
The UAE is Saudi Arabia’s major partner in the war on Yemen, which started in 2015 to eliminate the Houthis, and until now, the militia groups on the ground had been fighting alongside each other.
The war was also launched to restore the former regime of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to power in Yemen.
For the past four years, Hadi, who lives in Riyadh, has based his "government” in Aden, describing it as Yemen’s "temporary capital.”
The Saudi-led war in his support has achieved neither of its goals, and the recent heavy infighting is the first of its magnitude since the UAE announced a plan to effectively withdraw its forces from Yemen in July. The decision was apparently taken because the UAE came to the conclusion that the war — a brainchild of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — is unwinnable.