ADEN: Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher on Sunday accused southern separatists of attempting a coup in the interim capital of Aden after they took over the government headquarters.
The premier called on the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels to intervene, hours after fierce clashes erupted between military units loyal to the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and separatist security forces.
At least six people, including four from pro-government forces, were killed and dozens wounded in the clashes that spread to most of Aden, security sources said.
“A coup is ongoing here in Aden against legitimacy and the country’s unity,” Dagher said in the statement.
Security sources told AFP that pro-separatist units trained and backed by the United Arab Emirates had taken over the government headquarters in Aden after clashes.
The clashes erupted after separatist protestors were prevented from entering Aden where supporters of secessionists were gathering for a rally to demand the ouster of Dagher’s government.
Aden serves as a temporary base for Hadi’s Saudi-backed government as Iran-backed rebels took over the capital Sanaa more than three years ago.
A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in 2015 to back Hadi’s government in its war against the Houthi rebels.
Ahead of the planned protest, the coalition called for calm and restraint from “all Yemeni political and social” parties.
It urged all sides to “adhere to the language of calm dialogue”, according to a statement cited late Saturday by Saudi state news agency SPA.
Military and security units from both sides were deployed in the city amid high tension.
Universities, schools and the only international airport in the city had all been closed, according to witnesses.
Dagher said that events in Aden were headed towards “total military confrontation” and urged members of the coalition, in particular the UAE, to take action.
He also warned that separating south Yemen from the rest of the country would benefit Iran and the Houthis.
Sunday’s rally was called by the South Transition Council, an autonomous body aimed at overseeing self-governance among southern provinces.
The 26-member council, which is not recognised by Hadi’s government, includes the governors of five southern provinces and two cabinet ministers.
Former Aden governor Aidarous al-Zoubeidi formed the council in May after Hadi fired him the previous month.