UAE-backed forces capture Yemen’s UNESCO heritage site

Forces of the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) on Friday captured the building of the security directorate of Yemen’s Socotra island, the internationally recognized government  admits and witnesses said.

The UAE-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council seized several state buildings, including the governor’s headquarters, as it pushed into the provincial capital of Hadiboh, according to security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations.

The government, backed by Saudi Arabia, accused the separatist group of bombing civilian targets in a “brutal attack” on the scenic island, normally far removed from the troubles of war-torn Yemen. Witnesses reported hearing explosions and seeing shells crash into the city center, although there were no immediate reports of casualties.

“This armed attack and brutal assault on citizens represents the aggressive and reckless response of the so-called transitional council,” the government of exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi said in a statement.

The official stressed that clashes between the government forces and the STC forces are still going on.

Meanwhile, a minister in Hadi government called on Saudi Arabia to stop “this mess,” referring to the conflict between the STC and the government forces in Hadiboh.

Yemen’s southern provinces have witnessed repeated clashes between government forces and STC fighters since the latter declared self-rule in Aden late April.

The violence in Socotra erupted months after the separatists declared self-rule in Yemen’s south and seized control of the city of Aden, a bid that sparked fears of fresh chaos in a country already embroiled in five years of conflict.

More broadly, the standoff between the Emirati-funded separatists and Hadi’s Saudi-backed, internationally recognized government has threatened to unravel the partnership between the powerful regional allies, which are trying to oust the  Houthis from the country’s capital, Sana’a, and much of the north.