At least 10 people were killed and about 100 others were wounded as southern Yemeni separatists fought government troops in the southern city of Aden on Sunday, local medics said, deepening a rift between forces that had been on the same side.
The worst clashes yet between southern separatists, who are allied to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and forces loyal to the Saudi-based government risk crippling their once united war against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen’s north.
The fighting subsided by the evening after Prime Minister Ahmed bin Daghr ordered a truce and instructed forces loyal to the government to return to barracks, witnesses said.
By evening, some shops were open but the streets were mostly deserted. Yemen has been torn apart by three years of conflict between the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Houthi, and the factional fighting in the south compounds the misery.
The fighting broke out after the expiry of a deadline set last week by separatists from the Southern Transitional Council (STC) for Hadi to dismiss the bin Daghr government, accusing it of corruption and mismanagement.
The government denies this. Gunmen were deployed throughout most of Aden’s districts and there was heavy automatic gunfire and explosions in the southern port city, according to Reuters witnesses.
Armed separatists appeared to gain the upper hand by wresting a key military base in Khor Maksar district in northern Aden and several government buildings from soldiers loyal to Hadi, local newspaper Aden al-Ghad reported on its website.
Residents said that hundreds of pro-Southern demonstrators had gathered in a main square.Hospitals said at least nine fighters and one woman were killed in the fighting.
International medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said 86 wounded people were being treated, including seven people from one family whose car was hit by a shell.
ARAB INTERVENTION APPEAL
Bin Daghr had earlier denounced the separatists’ actions as a coup and said the outcome of the contest in Aden was in the hands of their backers, the UAE, who enjoy overall control in the city. He said the situation was headed toward “a comprehensive military confrontation … (which is) a direct gift to the Houthis and Iran”.