Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher on Sunday accused southern separatists of attempting a coup in the interim capital of Aden after they took over the government headquarters.
The premier called on the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthis to intervene, hours after fierce clashes erupted between military units loyal to the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and separatist security forces.
At least 15 people were killed in fierce fighting on Sunday in Yemen’s interim capital of Aden, hospital sources said, as separatists took over the government headquarters.
Three civilians were among those killed, medical sources in four hospitals in Aden said.
“A coup is ongoing here in Aden against legitimacy and the country’s unity,” Dagher said in the statement.
Security sources told AFP that pro-separatist had taken over the government headquarters in Aden after clashes.
The clashes erupted after separatist protesters were prevented from entering Aden where supporters of secessionists were gathering for a rally to demand the ouster of Dagher’s government.
Aden serves as a temporary base for Hadi’s Saudi-backed government as Iran-backed rebels took over the capital Sanaa more than three years ago.
A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in 2015 to back Hadi’s government in its war against the Houthis. Military and security units from both sides were deployed in the city amid high tension.
Universities, schools and the only international airport in the city had all been closed, according to witnesses.
Dagher said that events in Aden were headed toward “total military confrontation” and urged members of the coalition, in particular the UAE, to take action.
He also warned that separating south Yemen from the rest of the country would benefit Iran and the Houthis.
“Iran is trying to consolidate its presence in Yemen through the Houthis and by splitting Yemen, we are giving them one-third of the land and three-quarters of the population,” Dagher said.
Sunday’s rally was called by the South Transition Council, an autonomous body aimed at overseeing self-governance among southern provinces.
The 26-member council, which is not recognized by Hadi’s government, includes the governors of five southern provinces and two cabinet ministers.
Former Aden governor Aidarous Al-Zoubeidi formed the council in May after Hadi fired him the previous month. Ahead of the planned protest, the coalition called for calm and restraint from “all Yemeni political and social” parties.
It urged all sides to “adhere to the language of calm dialogue,” to liberate all of Yemen from the control of the Iran-backed Houthi terrorists, according to a statement cited late Saturday by Saudi state news agency SPA. The Yemeni government has welcomed the statement.
Yemen’s government spokesman Rajih Badi said in a statement that the position of the coalition in its support for the legitimate government was what it had stressed from the outset – which was the importance of maintaining the focus of the battle in confronting the Iranian-backed efforts to divide the country from within.
He said there was a need to keep faith in the goals and objectives of the legitimate government, the Arab coalition and UN in achieving and maintaining stability in the country.
The spokesman explained that the adoption of any action against the legitimate government only led to serve the enemies of Yemen, Gulf Arab countries, and the Arab region.—AN