Eight separatist soldiers and five members of pro-government forces were killed in an exchange of artillery fire in southern Yemen where the conflict is intensifying, military sources on both sides told AFP on Saturday.
Southern Transitional Council (STC) forces are vying for control of southern Yemen with the army loyal to the government, as these two formations are in principle allied in the face of the Houthi rebels to the north in the war devastating this poor country of the Arabian Peninsula since 2014.
The STC “lost eight members including two officers, and six others were injured” by artillery fire on Friday evening on the coast of Abyan (south), according to a source within the movement who requested anonymity.
The battle also “killed five members of government forces,” an anonymous government source told AFP.
Despite their alliance against the Houthis, the two camps continue to clash in the south, to the dismay of the Saudi neighbor who is leading a military coalition in Yemen to dislodge the rebels.
A military committee set up by Saudi Arabia, which is trying to contain the escalation of recent weeks, “failed (to intervene) at the time of the exchange of fire,” added the government source.
The Riyadh agreement concluded in November 2019 provided for an end to this conflict within the coalition by sharing power in the south, but it is struggling to be applied.
In April, the STC proclaimed the autonomy of the south before taking, two months later, control of the strategic island of Socotra, located opposite the Horn of Africa, near important maritime trade routes.
This battle in the south further undermines the authority of a beleaguered government in the face of well-established Houthi rebels in the north.
And this war within the war has complicated the conflict in Yemen which has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 2014 and caused, according to the UN, the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.