Yemeni separatists have wrested control of the port city of Aden — and the grounds of the presidential palace — from forces loyal to the internationally backed government, security officials said Saturday.
The separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates had been fighting as part of the Saudi-led coalition that supports the government, but turned against those forces in clashes in the southern city.
The death toll in four days of fighting climbed to more than 70 people, including civilians, officials said.
The latest development could further fracture the coalition that has battled Iran-aligned Houthi rebels since 2015 on behalf of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government, which is largely confined to Aden.
Houthis control the north and the capital, Sanaa.
Col. Turki al-Maliki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, was quoted Saturday in the state-run Saudi Press Agency as saying that “the coalition’s joint leadership is calling for an immediate cease-fire in Yemen’s interim capital of Aden … and will use military force against those who violate that.”
He said the coalition called on the separatist Southern Transitional Council and its Security Belt paramilitary forces to “return immediately to its positions and withdraw from all positions they seized in the past days.”
Security officials in Aden, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to brief the media, said Saudi troops have been guarding the offices of Hadi and his ministers in the presidential palace, but Security Belt forces are outside the building. Speech