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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Aden on edge as government bans protest ahead of separatist rally

Southern Transitional Council is demanding the sacking of Yemen's prime minister

A busy street in Aden, the temporary seat of Yemen's government where supporters of a southern separatist movement have been gathering ahead of a planned rally on January 28, 2018. Fawaz Salman / Reuters
A busy street in Aden, the temporary seat of Yemen's government where supporters of a southern separatist movement have been gathering ahead of a planned rally on January 28, 2018. Fawaz Salman / Reuters

Yemen's temporary capital of Aden was tense on Saturday as the government banned public gatherings ahead of rally by supporters of a southern separatist movement.

Thousands of people had already arrived in the southern port city ahead of the Sunday deadline given by the Southern Transitional Council (STC) to president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi to sack his cabinet.

The council accuses prime minister Ahmed Bin Dagher and his ministers of corruption and mismanagement and had given Mr Hadi one week to dismiss him.

The interior ministry said on Saturday that it was banning "any gatherings, sit-ins or marches" in Aden and that these would be considered "acts that target stability and calm".

All armed groups were also banned from entering the city, the ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run Saba news agency.

Mr Bin Dagher met on Saturday with senior commanders of the Saudi-led military coalition supporting Mr Hadi, the prime minister's office said.

"The meeting expressed its utter opposition to any call for chaos, violence or vandalism in the interim capital, Aden," it said.

However, an STC official said the planned rally in Khour Maksar district would go ahead.

Mohammed Al Gaithy, director deputy of the council's foreign affairs department, said the protest was part of a plan decided by the STC and commanders of the Southern Resistance militias to remove Mr Bin Dagher from office.

"Thousands of the protesters from all over the southern provinces will arrive in Aden tonight and tomorrow to raise their voice demanding the dismissal of the government led by Bin Dagher," Mr Al Gaithy told The National.

Ahmed Ali Al Hadi, an official from Al Had district in Lahj who arrived in Aden on Saturday with dozens of residents from the area, told The National that thousands more were travelling to the city from the neighbouring province.

The STC campaign against the government, and its call to re-establish a separate state in the south that existed before unification with the north in 1990, complicates Yemen's civil war between forces loyal to President Hadi and Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Pro-government forces, backed by the Saudi-led military coalition that intervened in the war in March 2015, have been making steady gains against the rebels since their alliance with former president Ali Abdullah Saleh collapsed last month.

A coalition-backed operation launched on Thursday to end a years-long rebel siege of Taez, Yemen's third city, has seen rapid advances, while government forces are also closing in on the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, and the key port of Hodeidah on the Red Sea coast.

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