Three southern Yemen separatist fighters were killed on Friday, August 30 in a suicide bombing in Aden, the first such attack since government forces were first driven out of the southern city earlier this month, security sources said.
In a separate attack, the military head of the United Arab Emirates-backed Security Belt force survived a roadside bomb attack on his convoy in central Aden that wounded five of his guards, the sources said.
“A suicide bomber crashed his bomb-laden motorbike into a vehicle of the Southern Transitional Council on a roundabout in the Sheikh Saad district” of northern Aden, one of the sources told AFP.
Three of those on board the vehicle were killed and an unknown number wounded, including civilians near a busy marketplace.
A security official blamed the suicide bombing on al-Qaeda, but Islamic State said via its Amaq propaganda agency that its fighters were responsible and killed nine members of the Security Belt forces.
UAE airstrikes in Aden
The bombings come a day after the UAE confirmed it conducted airstrikes in Aden, after Yemen’s government said the UAE had struck in Aden in support of the separatists.
“The Yemeni government condemns the Emirati air strikes against government forces in the interim capital Aden and in Zinjibar, which resulted in civilian and military casualties,” Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad al-Hadhrami said in a tweet.
Yemen’s Information Minister Muammar al-Iryani later tweeted that the strikes had killed 40 combatants and wounded 70 civilians.
The Emirati government later said it acted in self-defence against “terrorist militias” threatening the Saudi-led military coalition against Houthi rebels in which the UAE is a key partner.
Airstrikes on Wednesday and Thursday hit armed groups linked to “terrorist organizations,” a UAE foreign ministry statement said, in a reference to Islamists it believes make up part of Yemeni government forces.
“The military operation against the terrorist militias was based on confirmed field intelligence that the militias prepared to target the coalition forces – a development which required a preemptive operation to avert any military threat,” it said.
“The strikes against the Arab Coalition were launched by armed groups affiliated with terrorist organisations. These armed groups attacked the Arab Coalition at Aden Airport, causing two injuries to the coalition forces,” it added.
However, Yemen’s President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi redoubled allegations against the UAE, accusing it late Thursday of having planned, financed and coordinated attacks on state institutions and military positions in Aden.
The Yemen’s head of state, who is in exile in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, called on the Saudis to “intervene to halt the blatant interference of the United Arab Emirates, in support of the militias, and air raids against the armed forces of Yemen.”
The UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, on Friday urged all sides to go back to the negotiating table under a Saudi proposal for talks in Jeddah.
The Yemen government has said the STC must first withdraw from its positions.
“The Saudi initiative is the way out of this crisis,” Gargash said on Twitter.
Battle for control of interim capital Aden
The Security Belt force, dominated by the separatist Southern Transitional Council, regained control of Aden, Yemen’s interim capital, on Thursday, a day after the internationally recognized government said it had seized back Aden from the separatists who had taken the city a week earlier.
On August 1 separate attacks by jihadists and Houthi rebels killed 49 STC fighters and the separatists accused the government of complicity.
The STC is fighting to regain the independence of South Yemen which unified with the north in 1990.
The separatists have received support and training from the UAE, even though it is a key pillar in the Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government against the Iran-backed Houthis.
The coalition intervened in Yemen’s war in 2015 in support of the government after the Houthis swept south from their northern stronghold to seize the capital Sana’a and much of Yemen – the Arab world’s poorest nation.
The strategic port city of Aden has since then served as the government’s capital.
The clashes between the two sides – who for years have fought alongside each other against the Houthis – have raised concerns that the famine-threatened country could break apart.
This story was updated on August 30 to include the Islamic State claim and update the number of fighters killed.
With reporting from AFP