ADEN, Yemen (AFP) – A Saudi-led coalition launched Sunday a strike against southern separatists in Yemen after they seized the presidential palace in second city Aden in deadly fighting that threatened to deepen the country’s humanitarian crisis.
The seizure, decried by the Riyadh-backed Yemeni government as a UAE-supported coup, reflects deep divisions between secessionists and loyalist forces, both of whom have fought Shiite Houthi rebels.
“The coalition targeted an area that poses a direct threat to one of the important sites of the legitimate government,” a coalition statement said, calling on the separatist Southern Transitional Council to withdraw from positions seized in Aden or face further attacks.
It did not specify the target but residents in Aden told AFP it was an airstrike against separatist camps in the city.
Riyadh-based Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi is backed by the coalition – led by Saudi Arabia and its ally the United Arab Emirates – that is battling the Iran-aligned Houthis.
But another force in the anti-Houthi coalition – the UAE-trained Security Belt Force – has since Wednesday been battling loyalists in Aden, the temporary base of Hadi’s government.
The Security Belt Force is dominated by fighters who back the Southern Transitional Council, which seeks to restore south Yemen as an independent state as it was from 1967-1990.