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Seven killed in Yemen clashes

IANS  |  Aden 

In escalation of power struggle in Yemen, at least seven people were killed in clashes between tribal militia and security forces in country's southern port city of Aden on Thursday.

"The tribal militia allied with President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi attacked the security units at Aden's international airport, leaving at least seven people dead on both sides," a security official told Xinhua news agency on condition of anonymity.

"The pro-Hadi tribal militia has now taken full control over the airport and the fighting still continues," the source added.

Dozens of tribal fighters, backed by army units who support Hadi, have arrived at the airport to confront the well-trained security forces, according to an army officer.

Earlier in the day, the international airport in Aden was closed and all flights were halted as a result of the armed clashes.

A source at the airport told Xinhua on condition of anonymity that the airport's control tower was shelled and parts of the airport halls were damaged.

Tensions in Aden have mounted since mid-February amid an escalating standoff between Hadi and the Special Security Forces leadership, which has sparked deadly clashes.

Hadi fled to Aden in late February after escaping house arrest by Shia Houthi militias that control the capital Sanaa.

He sacked a number of intelligence and security commanders in Aden in his first decree since resuming presidential duties in the city.

Brig. Abdul-Haffez Saqqaf, commander of the Special Security Forces in Aden, was replaced for his suspected links to the Shia Houthi group.

However, Saqqaf defied Hadi's decree and refused to step down from his post, considering Hadi as an illegitimate president. He has engaged in sporadic clashes with pro-Hadi tribal militias who have been trying to force the well-trained troops to surrender.

Hadi has stepped up the confrontation with the Houthis since his arrival in Aden, with the support of Gulf nations. He called on political parties to move the reconciliation talks to the Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh, a move rejected by the Shia Houthi group which currently controls Sanaa.

On February 6, the Houthis announced the dissolution of the parliament and the formation of a presidential council to take over power, a unilateral move rejected by Yemen's political parties and denounced by Gulf Arab states.

More than a dozen countries have since closed their embassies in Sanaa following the Houthi decision. Some Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, have moved their missions to Aden to show support for Hadi.

The security situation in Yemen has further deteriorated as the country slips to the brink of civil war and an Al Qaeda group based in the southern regions looks set to take advantage of the unrest and expand its influence.

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First Published: Thu, March 19 2015. 15:48 IST