Yemen's separatists regain control of Aden: security officials

Fighters of the UAE-trained Security Belt Force, dominated by members of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) which seeks independence for south Yemen, patrol a street near the Aden International airport on August 28, 2019 (AFP Photo/Nabil HASAN) (AFP)

Aden (AFP) - Yemen's separatists have regained full control of the interim capital Aden following clashes with government forces who withdrew from the southern port city, security officials from both sides said Thursday.

"The Security Belt force completely controls the city of Aden along with its entrances," Haitham Nezar, a spokesman for the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council, told AFP.

A government security source confirmed Aden was under the full control of the STC, saying government troops who entered parts of the city on Wednesday "withdrew from Aden" to the nearby Abyan province.

The internationally-recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi claimed on Wednesday it had seized back Aden from the separatists who captured the strategic city on August 10 after a fierce battle.

Nezar said the Security Belt forces are now setting their sights on Abyan and Shabwa provinces which had been retaken the government troops earlier this week.

"Aden is fine," STC vice president Hani bin Breik wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

He posted pictures of himself and other southern leaders touring the streets of the city including the airport, while warning fleeing government loyalists of punishment.

Thousands of Security Belt troops, dominated by STC and backed by the UAE, were recalled from several parts of the country, including from Hodeida, to reinforce the STC in Aden.

Bin Breik said that STC forces fighting against the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels in the north were recalled to the south for a major battle.

"We will not remain in the (battle) fronts to liberate the north from the Huthis while the North is invading us," he said.

The STC is fighting to regain the independence of South Yemen which was an independent country before unification with the north in 1990.

The clashes between the STC and government forces -- who for years have fought alongside each other against the Iran-aligned Huthis -- have raised concerns that the famine-threatened country could break apart entirely.

The separatists have received support and training from the United Arab Emirates, even though it is a key pillar in the Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government against the Huthi rebels.