Yemen: heavy fighting in Aden, former capital of the south

Rebels attack airport and presidential palace

19 March, 19:57

    Hadi loyalists clash with Saleh loyalists closing Aden international airport Hadi loyalists clash with Saleh loyalists closing Aden international airport

    (by Alberto Zanconato) (ANSAmed) - BEIRUT - Aden, the former capital of southern Yemen until the reunification of the country in 1990, was the scene of heavy fighting on Thursday between forces under President Abed Rabbo Mansur Hadi and Houthi Shia rebel fighters alongside forces siding with former head of state Ali Abdullah Saleh. Hadi, who last month fled Sanaa after the Houthi rebels took control of it, had to leave the presidential palace of Aden as well after it was targeted by three airstrikes that failed to hit it.

    At least 13 were killed in the fighting, reported Al Jazeera. The clashes began just before dawn, when police special forces under General Abdul-Hafez Al-Saqqaf, on the side of former president Saleh, tried to take control of the airport in order to isolate Hadi, who has strong backing in this port city in southern Yemen. Tanks and armored vehicles arrived to support the loyalist forces under the command of Hadi's defense minister, General Mahmud Al-Subaihi. After hours of fighting, government troops managed to retake control of the airport. About a hundred passengers including an AP reporter on a plane of the national carrier Yemenia headed for Cairo were meanwhile forced to get off in a hurry and take shelter in the terminal. After pushing back rebel forces, the soldiers answering to Hadi bombed and attacked the police position held by Saleh's supporters and took control of it. The fighting extended into the afternoon and other areas of the city, including with the use of artillery. Loyalist forces have been deployed to protect government buildings and large hotels, while Saleh's fighters took over the town council building. The planes that sought to hit to presidential palace, say some sources on the ground, came from an air base near Sanaa under the control of the Houthi fighters. The Shia rebels, which in September took over the capital, dissolved the parliament and government in January and placed Hadi under house arrest. The president recognized by the international community fled on February 21 and sought refuge in Aden as concerns that the country would break away grew. Former president Saleh, ousted in 2012 after a year of popular protests and clashes between several tribal and military factions, has allied with the Houthis, while in the southern part of the country Al Qaeda in Yemen, which is inspired by traditional Sunni teachings, has increased its attacks on the armed forces and the Houthis.(ANSAmed).

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