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Yemen Gov't Forces Rout Separatists    08/23 06:23

   SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- 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.

   Clashes over Ataq, the capital of oil-rich Shabwa province 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 infighting between Hadi's forces and the UAE-backed separatists --- 
ostensibly allies in Yemen's war against the Shiite 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, 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-Emirati commission flew to southern Yemen last week to negotiate a 
truce between the government forces and separatists but has so far made no 
progress.

   In a tweet posted early Friday, Hani Ben Braik, a separatist leader, would 
not admit defeat at Ataq but said his militiamen chose not to pursue a battle 
in the city out of "respect" for the truce efforts. However, Ben Baraik warned 
his forces would fight back if they were attacked again.

   Though a key member of the coalition, the UAE never threw its full support 
behind Hadi because of his ties to Yemen's Muslim Brotherhood group, a pan-Arab 
movement that many Arab countries, including the UAE, consider a terrorist 
organization.

   Hadi's government released a statement on Tuesday saying the UAE was 
responsible for the "armed rebellion" in the south and urged the Emiratis to 
stop providing funds and military support to the separatists.


(KR)

 
 
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