Suicide attack kills UAE-backed separatists in Yemen's embattled Aden

Suicide attack kills UAE-backed separatists in Yemen's embattled Aden
A number of UAE-backed southern separatists were killed in a suicide bombing in Yemen's embattled temporary capital on Friday.
3 min read
30 August, 2019
The attack has yet to be claimed by a group [Anadolu]
At least three UAE-backed separatist fighters were killed in a suicide bombing in Aden on Friday, the first such attack since Yemeni government forces were expelled from the southern city on August 10, security sources said.

"A suicide bomber crashed his bomb-laden motorbike into a Security Belt military checkpoint in Aden's Dar Saad district," the UAE-backed Security Belt force said on Twitter.

It confirmed counter-terrorism forces immediately stormed into the Dar Saad district from all directions in the aftermath of the attack to maintain security of the area.

The force, which is loyal to southern separatists that have in recent weeks captured cities in the south, including Aden, confirmed motorbikes were "strictly prohibited inside the capital Aden". 

No group has yet confirmed responsibility, although the attack bares the hallmarks of al-Qaeda, which has recently rejected the separatists' calls for a divided Yemen.

The attack comes came hours after the Emirati-backed separatists regained control of Aden on Thursday, forcing government troops who had entered the city a day early to withdraw, officials on both sides said.

The government on Wednesday said it had seized back Aden from separatists who captured the strategic city on August 10 after a fierce battle that left at least 40 people dead.

The fighting has opened a new front in a complex war that has already claimed tens of thousands of lives and sparked what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis

The coalition intervened in the war in 2015 in support of the government after the Houthis swept south from their northern stronghold to seize the capital Sanaa and much of Yemen - the Arab world's poorest nation.

On Friday, the United Arab Emirates, which has come under repeated fire from Yemen’s government, labeled Saudi-backed government forces as “terrorist militias” amid heightened tensions between the allies.

The UAE’s foreign ministry statement late on Thursday confirmed "precise and direct airstrikes" on Wednesday and Thursday hit militias in the interim capital Aden, where UAE-backed separatists and Yemen’s government have been vying for power for several weeks.

The Abu Dhabi statement claimed the militias had planned to target a Saudi-led military coalition, of which the UAE is a key member, backing the Yemen government against Houthi rebels. 

The UAE said it acted in "self-defence" after attacks by "armed groups affiliated with terrorist organisations".

"The military operation against the terrorist militias was based on confirmed field intelligence that the militias prepared to target the coalition forces - a development which required a preemptive operation to avert any military threat," it said.

Comment: How Yemen's southern separatists mirror their authoritarian Emirati backers

"The strikes against the Arab Coalition were launched by armed groups affiliated with terrorist organisations. These armed groups attacked the Arab Coalition at Aden Airport, causing two injuries to the coalition forces,"  said the statement which was carried by the Emirates' official WAM news agency.

The UAE accusation risks straining an already complex conflict in Yemen.

Yemen’s President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who has been located in Riyadh since the early days of the conflict, slammed the UAE’s activities in the south of the country.

"We were shocked by the UAE's air raids against citizens and members of our national army amid populated neighbourhoods across the temporary capital Aden, which led forces to withdraw from the Aden province," the Yemeni presidency said in a statement on Thursday.

Hadi said he directed "the government of all its institutions to take all necessary measures at various levels to face this blatant targeting", against the country, as well as its “unity and territorial integrity."

"We have not been intimidated by the weapons and arsenal of Iran and its militias, nor will we be intimidated by fighter jets targeted on our land," the Yemeni president vowed in a statement, referencing the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels.

He urged the UAE's key ally Saudi Arabia "to intervene to stop this blatant intrusion by these militias and their aerial bombardment of our armed forces", the statement said.

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