Infighting among Yemen’s pro-government forces in a southern province killed at least three civilians, military and medical officials said Monday.
Clashes erupted late Sunday in Ataq, the capital of Shabwa province, between the United Arab Emirates-backed Giants Brigades and Shabwa Defense Forces on one side and the paramilitary police known as Special Security Forces on the other. Both sides are part of the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting the country’s Houthi rebels since 2015.
Fifteen people, mostly fighters, were killed in the violence, which followed the UAE-backed governor’s decision to sack an anti-UAE police commander, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
On Monday, missiles struck Ataq airport, where UAE troops are stationed, officials said without immediately providing details.
Troops and armored vehicles from both sides were deployed on Ataq’s streets on Monday. Dozens of families had packed and left the city, and stores did not open for fear the violence might persist, according to witnesses who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal.
Also on Monday, the internationally recognized presidential council convened in an extraordinary meeting and endorsed the Shabwa governor’s decision and fired another three senior police and military commanders, according to the state-run SABA news agency.
The council warned that such infighting would only serve the Houthi rebels by weakening the anti-Houthi bloc.
Yemen’s civil war erupted in 2014, when the Iran-backed Houthis descended from their northern enclave and took over the capital, forcing the government to flee to the south before its exile in Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition — then backed by the United Sates — entered the war in early 2015 to try to restore the government to power. Since then, the conflict has turned into a proxy war between regional foes Saudi Arabia and Iran, which backs the Houthis. The war has also resulted in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Last week, the rebels and the government agreed to renew an existing truce for two more months after concerted international efforts.
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