Yemen govt decries UAE-backed 'coup' after separatists seize palace
Aden: Southern separatists in Yemen said Saturday they had seized the presidential palace in the second city Aden after fierce battles with loyalist forces, prompting the government to decry what it called a UAE-backed "coup".
The deadly clashes reflect deep divisions between secessionists and loyalist forces, both of whom have fought Shiite Huthi rebels.
Yemeni President Abderabbo Mansour Hadi, based in Saudi Arabia, is backed by a Riyadh-led coalition battling the Huthis who hail from Yemen's north.
But another force in the anti-Huthi coalition, trained by Riyadh ally the United Arab Emirates, has since Wednesday been battling loyalists in Aden, the temporary base of Hadi's government.
The UAE-backed Security Belt Force is dominated by fighters who back the Southern Transitional Council (STC), which seeks to restore south Yemen as an independent state as it was from 1967-1990.
A Security Belt official late Saturday told AFP the force had seized the presidential palace -- largely symbolic, due to Hadi's absence -- without a fight.
"Two hundred soldiers from the Presidential Guard were given safe passage out of the palace," the official said.
An eyewitness confirmed the complex had been handed over.
The Yemeni government late on Saturday blamed the STC and the United Arab Emirates.
"The Republic of Yemen holds the (southern) Transitional Council and the United Arab Emirates responsible for the coup against the legitimate government in Aden," Yemen's foreign ministry said on Twitter.
In a statement, it demanded "that the UAE halt its material support and withdraw its military support, immediately and fully, from the groups that have rebelled against the state."
The Saudi-led coalition called for an "immediate ceasefire" and threatened "military force against anyone who violates this," a coalition spokesman was quoted as saying by the official Saudi Press Agency.
Riyadh demanded an "urgent meeting" between the warring parties "to discuss their differences, to give a chance to wisdom and dialogue, to renounce divisions, to end strife and unite." Earlier on Saturday, the Security Belt overran three military barracks in Aden and seized weaponry. (AFP)