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Yemeni government forces take control of Ataq city after clashes with separatists

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Yemeni government forces on Saturday took control of Ataq, the capital of Shabwa province, after two days of bloody clashes with southern separatists, a government source said.

The clashes between government forces and forces of the Southern Transitional Council, broke out in Shabwa Thursday night.

At least 11 people were killed, medical sources told AFP.

The source told Agence France Presse that fighters from the elite Shabwani forces – established in 2016 with the support of the United Arab Emirates – “were forced to retreat after entering some government buildings” in Ataq.

The source said on condition of anonymity that government forces took control of an elite camp.

The source confirmed that “the fighting between the two sides moved to the outskirts of the city.”

Both sides have sent reinforcements to the region, both announced Saturday.

The clashes in Shabwa come after bloody clashes earlier this month between government forces and “security belt” forces, mostly elements of southern separatists, broke out in Aden.

The southern interim council pulled out partially last week from key positions it occupied in Aden, under pressure from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but still controls key military positions.

The Southern Transitional Council also prompted government forces to leave two camps in nearby Abyan province.

The separatists receive support and training from the UAE, which is the main partner in the military coalition supporting the Yemeni government against the Houthi rebels close to Iran.

The Yemeni government accused the United Arab Emirates of “responsibility in the armed rebellion” and urged it to stop supporting “this militia.”

But despite fighting the rebels together, separatists and government forces are locked in a battle to consolidate influence in the south, especially in Aden, the capital of the former southern state before its union with the north in 1990 and the birth of a united Yemen.

Analysts say the rift between the internationally recognized government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the separatists reflects a rift between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

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