SANAA, Yemen (AP) - Yemeni separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates seized the area around the presidential palace in the southern city of Aden on Tuesday after fierce battles with forces loyal to the internationally-backed government, security officials said.
A Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE has been battling rebels in northern Yemen for nearly three years on behalf of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government. But despite having a common enemy, the UAE and Hadi have been locked in a long-running power struggle, which boiled over on Sunday as clashes erupted across the government’s seat of power.
Elsewhere in Yemen, al-Qaida militants attacked a checkpoint in the southern Shabwa province, killing at least 12 soldiers in an area where Yemeni troops had claimed victory against the extremist group. The militants claimed the attack in a statement circulated on social media, saying it was in retaliation for abuses by U.S. and UAE-backed forces.
The security officials said fighters loyal to the so-called Southern Transitional Council fought all way to the gates of the palace in central Aden, forcing Hadi’s troops to abandon their positions. The officials said Hadi’s prime minister and several Cabinet members would soon leave Yemen for Riyadh, where Hadi is already based, but by late Tuesday it was not yet clear if they had done so.
Saudi troops who have been guarding the palace for months stopped the separatists at the gate, preventing them from entering. A senior government official told The Associated Press that Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghar and several ministers remain inside. The official declined to say whether the prime minister was to leave Aden. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations.
In the northern district of Dar Saad, witnesses said coalition jets bombed a military camp of Hadi’s forces before separatists took control of it. Brig. Gen. Mahran al-Qubati told the AP that his forces respected a cease-fire announced by the coalition earlier in the day but the separatists used the truce to attack his base using Emirati armored vehicles.