Yemen government forces captured Aden airport from southern separatists and attacked the city’s eastern suburbs, residents and officials said in renewed fighting deepening a rift between supposed allies in a Saudi-led coalition.
Forces of the Saudi-backed government recaptured most towns lost to the United Arab Emirates-backed separatists earlier this month before moving to Aden, the temporary seat of government.
Government information minister Moammar al-Eryani said on Twitter government forces took Aden airport from the separatists. Residents confirmed the report.
The Iran-aligned Houthi movement stepped up missile and drone attacks on Saudi held cities. On Wednesday it launched armed drones on “military targets” in the Saudi regions Jizan and Najran.
Separatists and the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi are nominally united under the Saudi-led coalition in the battle against the Houthis.
The UAE is at odds with government because it comprises the Islah party, seen as close to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement which the Gulf state has been fighting across the Middle East and North Africa. Islah denies being a member of the Brotherhood.
The Emirati government and a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Western-backed, Sunni Muslim coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Houthi movement that ousted Hadi in Sanaa in late 2014. His government relocated to Aden.
REVENGE AGAINST SOUTHERNERS
Witnesses said clashes were heard in Aden’s al-Arech and Khor Maksar districts, as well as around the airport, under control of UAE-backed forces since 2015.
Both sides exchanged artillery fire with southern separatists withdrawing from some positions and checkpoints, allowing government forces to reach central neighbourhoods, witnesses said.
Hadi forces secured areas around the presidential palace and the Yemen central bank headquarters.
“The State’s return to Aden is a victory for all Yemenis,” Yemen Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed said in a statement, urging reform of the security services.
Yemen Interior Minister Ahmed al-Maysari warned government forces not to take revenge against southerners.
Government forces took control of Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province, after securing most of the oil producing province of Shabwa and its liquefied natural gas terminal in Balhaf.
The separatists of the Southern Transitional Council (STC), who seek to restore the South Yemen republic which merged with the north in 1990, occasionally clashed with government before new hostilities erupted this month.
The separatists accuse government of mismanagement and supporting extremism, allegations Hadi’s officials deny.
Saudi Arabia called for a summit to end the stand-off, which complicated UN efforts to end the Yemen war. Hadi’s government said it would not participate until separatists cede control of sites seized in August.
The stand-off has exposed differences between regional allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which scaled down its presence in Yemen while still backing southern separatist fighters in June.