SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A Yemeni minister accused the United Arab Emirates of trying to fragment his country by creating separate “regional and tribal armies” in the south and called upon the government to take action.
Yemen has been engulfed in a civil war since 2015, with a Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE fighting Shiite rebels known as Houthis to restore the internationally recognized government to power.
But the government, now based in the southern port city of Aden, is at odds with the UAE forces based there, their official allies against the Houthis.
The UAE has trained and financed Yemeni troops who only answer to the Emiratis and has also backed a newly formed pro-secessionist Southern Transitional Council. Supporters of the council battled in the streets of Aden last month, calling for the Yemeni government’s resignation.
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Yemeni transportation minister Saleh al-Gabwani, said the UAE-backed troops cut off his convoy on Sunday while he was en route to inaugurate a new port in Balhaf, a town that hosts the largest natural gas plant in Yemen and a major terminal, now occupied by the UAE forces.
He said the so-called Shabwa Elite Force, one of several units that only answer to the UAE forces, told him that the Emiratis ordered that he be stopped from reaching the port.
“There are tribal and regional armies set up by the Emiratis,” al-Gabwani later told a gathering of local and government officials. “We as a state can’t accept continuation of this situation.”
Meanwhile, an airstrike suspected to have been launched by the Saudi-led coalition killed at least seven troops, including high-ranking officers loyal to the internationally recognized government, and wounded 16 others, military officials said Monday.
The strike targeted a military post by mistake in the district of Naham, on the fringes of Sanaa province where fierce fighting is ongoing between government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition and the rebels.
The military officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Yemen’s war has also triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with over 2 million people displaced and millions living on humanitarian assistance.
This story has been corrected to show that the transportation minister was en route to the port in Balhaf, not Aden when he was stopped.