Yemen separatists drive out govt troops from two camps in south

ADEN (AFP) – Yemeni separatists drove government troops out of two military camps in deadly clashes on Tuesday, reinforcing their presence in the south after they seized the de facto capital Aden.

The opening of a new front in a complex and devastating war prompted the United Nations’ (UN) Yemen envoy to warn that the country could splinter unless a peace deal is quickly reached.

The latest clashes in Abyan province came after the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council (STC) partially withdrew from key sites it occupied in Aden earlier this month. A military coalition backing the government said it had “succeeded in calming the situation”. But on Tuesday, fighters from the so-called Security Belt Forces surrounded a special forces camp near provincial capital Zinjibar.

The site is about 60 kilometres from Aden, and close to Al-Kawd military camp.

Abyan governor Abu Bakr Hussein told AFP the separatists then seized the Al-Kawd camp in fierce clashes, forcing out the 350 troops there.

They remained positioned around the Zinjibar base following the exit of government forces, in a deal mediated by local authorities.

At least four military personnel – two separatists and two government troops – were killed and 23 wounded in the fighting, said Hussein, adding that 1,100 troops had been stationed in Zinjibar.

Mohammed al-Markhi, a Security Belt Forces commander, confirmed his troops had control of both camps, while Zinjibar residents said separatists were also deployed in the city’s streets.

While they have also fought against the Huthis, STC forces want to see South Yemen regain the independence it gave up with unification in 1990.

The war against the Huthis has already pushed the country to the brink of famine.

The UN’s special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, condemned the STC’s takeover of Aden and told the Security Council that there was “no time to lose” in brokering a peace deal.