UAE-backed fighters take Aden airport from Hadi forces: Report

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Report suggests that forces supported by the UAE fought fighters loyal to exiled Yemeni president at Aden airport

Hadi was denied permission to land at Aden airport in February (AFP)
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Last update: 
Wednesday 31 May 2017 14:49 UTC
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Yemeni forces backed by the United Arab Emirates have taken the airport in the southern city of Aden, reports have said, further fuelling tension between exiled President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the Emirati armed forces.

The officials told the Associated Press news agency that one soldier died in clashes over the airport on Wednesday morning. 

Witnesses, who did not specifically mention UAE-backed forces or Hadi, told Reuters that fighters loyal to rival factions in Aden, the seat of Yemen's internationally recognised government, traded gun and rocket fire for nearly three hours at the city's airport on Tuesday night.

The UAE contributed forces to the Saudi-led coalition that secured Hadi’s return to the country following his exile in 2014 when Shia rebels seized the capital, Sanaa.

However, tensions grew between Hadi and the UAE over control of the strategic Aden airport.

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EXCLUSIVE: Yemen president says UAE acting like occupiers

In a Middle East Eye report in early May, Hadi accused Zayed of behaving like an occupier, particularly in regards to the Aden airport.

When the UAE controlled the airport in February, Hadi was not allowed to land, who instead had to ground his plane on the island of Socotra.

He successfully landed in Aden on a second attempt, but the exiled Yemeni president sacked the person of charge of the airport, who had disobeyed Hadi’s orders.

Hadi then had one of his generals and presidential bodyguard, Brigadier General Muhran Qabati, to lay siege to the airport.

The Saudis intervened and brought calm between the two sides, but after a few weeks, the UAE did not allow Qabati to land his plane.

In response, Hadi fired Aden's governor Aidarus al-Zubaidi, and Hani Ali bin Braik, a minister of state and general commander of the forces of the security belt, run by the UAE

The feud between the two men threatens to split the alliance of forces that are fighting the Iranian-backed Houthis.

Militias and shadowy armed groups have proliferated in Aden, though internal clashes has been rare as fighters have mostly focused on securing the city from attacks by the local branch of Islamic State (IS) group.

The airport hosts infrequent flights from the national carrier Yemenia since it was refurbished and reopened in July last year after suffering war damage.

The Yemeni government, led by the Hadi and backed by a mostly Gulf Arab coalition, has been locked in a civil war with the Houthis that has killed more than 10,000 people and plunged the country into a humanitarian crisis. The Houthis hold the capital Sanaa.