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Yemeni government accuses UAE following clashes in strategic town of Ataq

Southern separatist militias have seized strategic areas recently [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 August, 2019

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The Yemeni government accused the UAE of responsibility for deadly clashes between its forces and a southern separatist militia which attacked the town of Ataq.

Forces loyal to Yemen's internationally recognized government have taken full control of a key southern city after overnight clashes with separatists, Yemeni security officials said Friday.

Deadly clashes over Ataq, the capital of Shabwa province in south-eastern Yemen, erupted late Thursday night and lasted until Friday morning, said the security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because there were not authorized to talk to the media.

The city of Ataq was previously divided between Saudi-backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi's government forces and a separatist militia, trained and armed by the United Arab Emirates.

The Yemeni government accused the UAE of sparking the clashes in Shabwa province, which is rich in oil.

A government spokesman, Rajeh Badi, said that Emirati forces based in the Belhaf area had instigated the attack by the separatist “Shabwa Elite” militia on Ataq despite Saudi efforts to calm the situation in the province.

The fighting between Hadi's forces and the UAE-backed separatists - nominally allies in Yemen's war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels - erupted earlier this month. It has threatened to fracture the Saudi-led coalition, a group of Arab states that intervened in Yemen's civil war in 2015, ostensibly to help restore Hadi's government to power. The previous year, the rebel Houthis overran the capital, Sanaa, and gained control of much of the country's north.

Separatist militiamen of the so-called Southern Transitional Council, have so far seized strategic southern areas, including the city of Aden and much of the nearby Abyan province.

A Saudi-UAE commission flew to southern Yemen last week to negotiate a truce between the government forces and separatists but has so far made no progress.

Read more: Separatists announce plans to seize entire south

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