Spotlight: Yemen's Aden faces escalating faction after attack by southern separatist forces

Source: Xinhua| 2018-08-19 06:17:25|Editor: Liangyu
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by Murad Abdu

ADEN, Yemen, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- Following an armed attack launched by pro-secession southern forces against a military academy in Aden City on Saturday, tension is feared to escalate between Yemen's government forces and anti-government military units in the country's southern part.

Earlier in the day, forces loyal to the pro-secession Southern Transitional Council (STC) launched an armed attack targeting a graduation ceremony at a military academy in Aden, in protest of raising the country's national flag at the academy despite SCT's warning.

Residents told Xinhua that the anti-unity forces loyal to the STC rained the military academy buildings with a barrage of heavy gunfire and cancelled the ceremony using violence.

The soldiers in charge of protecting the military academy failed to resist the attacking forces, leaving at least one student killed and four others injured in a two-hour gunfight, according to Aden-based residents near the scene.

Hours after the attack, pro-secession southern people staged a demonstration in Aden's district of Buraiga to condemn the raising of Yemen's national flag in their city.

Some of the protesters burned tires and blocked a bridge and other main roads leading to the military academy headquarters in Buraiga.

Yemeni high-ranking government officials, including the interior minister, who were planning to attend the graduation ceremony to deliver speeches during this occasion, failed to reach the academy because of the public riot.

A government source told Xinhua by phone that the investigation into the attack on a government institution is underway, vowing to bring perpetrators to justice.

"Raising Yemen's national flag is not a crime because our country is still unified and not separated," the government source said on condition of anonymity.

"The attack that targeted the academy is a sabotage act aimed at destabilizing Aden and creating chaos," he added.

However, a STC leader based in Aden, said people in Aden and all other southern provinces all oppose "staying in unity with northern provinces."

"Even the students studying at the military academy were against raising the flag but some northern government leaders insisted on doing so," the source said, who also asked to remain anonymous.

The STC source revealed that the Yemeni government has no support in southern provinces including Aden as they are all being secured by local militias.

Meanwhile, an Aden-based youth activist, who identified himself as Nasr Abdullah, agreed that the people in Aden "only accept the government as a guest after it came back from exile in Saudi Arabia."

It is "our sons and brothers who struggled and liberated Aden from Houthis in 2015," he pointed out.

Abdullah also accused the Yemeni government of creating problems and depriving southern people from basic rights including services and electricity.

"The government's rampant corruption reached an unbearable stage and it's time to govern our own cities because that's our legitimate right," the activist said.

Meanwhile, media outlets affiliated to the STC reported that the UN peace talks scheduled for September in Geneva might include pro-secession southern leaders for the first time.

Ignoring the STC and pro-secession southern leaders or excluding them from the UN-sponsored peace talks will absolutely escalate the situation, leading to a complete failure, according to local analysts.

In January, forces loyal to the STC engaged in fierce armed confrontations with the government Presidential Protection Forces over the control of Aden.

During the fighting, the forces loyal to the STC took control of the port city of Aden and other government headquarters after two days of clashes which left more than 38 killed and scores of others injured.

There have been rising tensions between southern separatist leaders and ministers of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government over control of the southern half of the country after expelling Iran-backed Houthis from the region.

Considered as Yemen's temporary capital, Aden is where the Saudi-backed Yemeni government has based itself since 2015.

The Yemeni government, allied with the Saudi-led Arab military coalition, has been battling Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels over control of the country for more than three years.

The anti-Houthi coalition began an air campaign in March 2015 to wipe out Houthi presence and reinstate exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his government to the power.

The coalition also imposed air and sea blockade to prevent weapons from reaching Houthis, who occupied the capital Sanaa and seized most of the northern Yemeni provinces.