ADEN: Yemeni separatists drove government troops out of two military camps in deadly clashes on Tuesday, reinforcing their presence in the south after they seized the de facto capital Aden.
The fighting, in Abyan province, came after the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council (STC) partially withdrew from key sites it occupied in Aden earlier this month, and a Saudi-led military coalition — which backs the government — said it had “succeeded in calming the situation”.
But on Tuesday fighters from the so-called Security Belt Forces initially surrounded a special forces camp in Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan about 60 kilometres from Aden — and a nearby military camp at Al-Kawd, Abyan governor Abu Bakr Hussein said.
He said the separatists then seized the Al-Kawd camp in fierce clashes, forcing out the 350 troops there, and that they remained positioned around the Zinjibar base following the exit of government forces in a deal mediated by local authorities.
At least four military personnel — two separatists and two government troops — were killed and 23 wounded in the fighting, said Hussein, adding that 1,100 troops had been stationed in Zinjibar.
The spike in tensions between the separatists and pro-government forces constrains their cooperation against a common foe — the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels — in a war that has pushed the country to the brink of famine.
Mohammed al-Markhi, a commander in the Security Belt Forces — an outfit trained by the United Arab Emirates that is aligned with the STC — said “we are controlling both camps now”.
Residents in Zinjibar, meanwhile, said separatist troops were deployed in the capital’s streets.
Yemeni Information Minister Moammer al-Eryani said in an earlier tweet that the Zinjibar base had been besieged.
“The Security Belt Forces... are demanding the (government) troops surrender or they will storm the camp,” he said.
Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2019