Clashes between separatists, pro-gov’t forces kill 14 in Abyan

More than 14 UAE-backed Southern separatists and Saudi-led forces have been killed as clashes between the two sides entered a sixth day in the Southern Yemeni province of Abyan.

Separatist forces of the so-called Southern Transitional Council (STC) are resisting an offensive by Saudi-sponsored forces loyal to Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, launched on the outskirts of Zinjibar, some 60 km from the main Southern city of Aden.

A military official of Yemen’s former government told AFP news agency that 14 militants, including 10 pro-Hadi mercenaries, were killed on Saturday as fighting between the two sides entered a sixth day.

A separatist military source confirmed the death toll, claiming the capture of 40 pro-Hadi militants and the seizure of military equipment.

UAE-backed Southern Transitional (STC) forces have taken control of strategic locations of the most important Saudi-backed Islah Party camps in the coastal city of Shakra, local sources in Abyan confirmed.

Pro-STC activists circulated photos on social media, Saturday evening, to the STC militia near the Islah’s Qarn Al-Classi camp.

They explained that the field leader in the STC so-called “Storm Brigades”, Muhammad Al-Khalifi, was wounded in violent clashes at the first sites of the Qarn Al-Classi camp.

Other sources indicated that the clashes that took place near the camp, which is 30 km from the administrative borders of Zanzibar city, the capital of the province, left dead and wounded, and heavy equipment losses on both sides.

The sources stated that a number of armored vehicles of the Islah elements withdrew in the face of the STC attacks with various types of weapons.

The sources pointed to the continued fierce confrontations in the Sheikh Salem front east of Zanzibar, in an attempt by the Islah elements to take control of Al-Tareya camp, the largest camp of the STC, after it was restored a few days ago.

The forces of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) are resisting an offensive by pro-government troops on the outskirts of Zinjibar, some 60km (35 miles) from the main southern city of Aden.

Sources said the confrontations, in which the two sides exchanged missile and artillery shelling, were taking place in two fronts – including the village of Sheikh Salem and al-Tariya, an area northeast of Zinjibar.

Witnesses in the city said military reinforcements – including armoured vehicles loaded with weaponry – had reached STC forces, while similar reinforcements were delivered to pro-government forces from Shabwa province, in eastern Yemen.

​​​​​​Both the UAE-sponsored separatists and the Saudi-backed forces loyal to Hadi serve the Riyadh-led military coalition and have been engaged, since March 2015, in a bloody war on Yemeni people.

Ties between the two sides have soured over a number of issues, including what the Yemenis view as the UAE’s intention to occupy Yemen’s strategic Socotra Island and gain dominance over major waterways in the region.

Southern Yemen is witnessing intense clashes between militants, backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, exposing a deep rift in the Riyadh-led coalition.

The Saudi-led coalition has urged the UAE-backed forces to return to a power-sharing deal signed in Riyadh last November. Riyadh’s agreement halted months of heavy clashes between the UAE-backed troops and forces loyal to Hadi, however, the Emirati-backed STC declared a state of emergency and announced “self-administration rule” in Yemen’s southern regions, including the port city of Aden — which has served as the seat of Hadi’s former regime during the Saudi military aggression, sparking the tensions.