Clashes erupt in Aden amid rift in anti-Huthi alliance

Violence in Aden highlights rift within the Saudi-backed coalition between southern separatist group and Islamist backers of the internationally-recognised government.

ADEN - Mourning southern separatists clashed on Wednesday with presidential guards in Aden, the seat of Yemen's government, with one person killed and at least two badly injured, local officials and residents told Reuters.

The violence highlighted a rift within the Saudi-backed coalition battling the Iran-aligned Huthi movement in a more than four-year war that has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

The separatists and the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi are nominally united in their battle against the Huthis.

But they have rival agendas for Yemen's future, and a missile strike in Aden last week killing dozens of southern soldiers raised frictions between them.

Hundreds of separatist supporters attended a funeral for some of those troops and a prominent commander on Wednesday near the hilltop presidential palace.

As the crowd chanted anti-government slogans, shooting was exchanged with presidential guards. It was not immediately clear who the one fatality and two injured people were.

After the funeral, the vice-president of the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), Hani Ali Brik, called on supporters to march on the palace and overthrow the government, but there was no sign such a march had begun.

The United Nations' special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, expressed concern about the flare-up in Aden.

"I am alarmed by the military escalations in Aden today, including reports of clashes in the vicinity of the Presidential Palace. I am also deeply concerned by the recent rhetoric encouraging violence against Yemeni institutions," he tweeted.

President away

The southern port city of Aden is the temporary home of Hadi's government, though he himself is in Saudi Arabia and the presidential palace is largely empty apart from soldiers.

Wednesday's fracas came after the STC on Tuesday alleged that the Islamist party Islah, which is an important ally of Hadi, was complicit in last week's killing of the Security Belt soldiers.

Separatist commander Brigadier General Muneer al-Yafee was among those who died in the missile attack on the parade.

"The people of the south are all on the street. This is a movement by the people that cannot be stopped, except with the government's downfall," said one mourner, Abdelhakim Tabaza.

Warplanes were seen on Wednesday flying over Aden, where rivalries have brought violence in the past too. In January 2018, southern forces took control after two days of fighting, confining Hadi's government to the presidential palace.

After accusing the Islamist party Islah of involvement in Thursday's missile attack, the STC's Brik had on Tuesday said: "Do not blame our people if they take to the streets to demand the removal of this government from southern lands."

Islah is tolerated by Saudi Arabia but viewed with suspicion by the United Arab Emirates, which views the party as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood is designated a terrorist organisation by both Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.

The UAE supports the anti-Huthi coalition, but has shifted its support more towards the southern separatists throughout the duration of Yemen's war.