Southern separatists have vacated key public buildings in Yemen’s port city of Aden that they had recently captured from forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, exposing divisions within the Saudi-Emirati coalition supporting the internationally-recognised government.
The supporters of the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) pulled out of the headquarters of Hadi’s government, the supreme court and the central bank, as well as Aden’s main hospital, more than a week after seizing them, Hadi’s information minister Muammar al-Iryani said on Twitter on Saturday
“Measures are being completed to hand over the interior ministry and Aden refinery to presidential guard units under the supervision of the coalition,” he tweeted.
The seizure of government military bases by separatist fighters a week ago has created a rift in the Saudi-Emirati military coalition formed four years ago to support Yemen’s internationally-recognised government, based in Aden, against the Houthi rebels.
Forces of the separatist STC, trained and equipped by the United Arab Emirates, are a part of the anti-Houthi alliance, but the multi-layered war has rekindled old strains between north and south Yemen – formerly separate countries until 1990.
STC sources told Reuters news agency their forces, which had already moved away from the nearly empty presidential palace and central bank, were vacating government institutions under the supervision of a Saudi-UAE delegation.
But they said the forces would not quit the government military camps that give them effective control of the city.
“We will not retreat, we will not budge and planes will not scare us,” a statement from one of the brigades fighting as part of the southern separatists said, as Saudi-led warplanes fired flares over Aden at dawn on Saturday.
“The STC and the southern forces do not answer, but to the demands of and the will of the people,” Al-Khadher Sulaiman, director of the Office of Foreign Affairs of the STC in New York, told Al Jazeera.
“The legitimate government can ignore the popular will but the STC on the ground was compelled to act.”