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Yemeni separatist STC seizes billions of riyals set for central bank

Southern Transitional Council forces commandeered cash as they attempt to strengthen control in south Yemen
Southern Yemeni separatists declared self-rule in April (AFP)

Southern Yemeni separatists seized billions of Yemeni riyals headed for the central bank in the port city Aden. 

Forces loyal to the Southern Transitional Council (STC), which controls Aden, seized billions of Yemeni riyals as the money was being conveyed from the port to the bank, the bank said on Saturday. 

The group declared in May that all taxes and duties should be paid to the STC, redirecting funds from the government-controlled central bank. 

Yemen's separatists take state revenues in Aden to tighten southern grip
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"The action is part of several measures to end sources of corruption and to prevent the use of public money in supporting terrorism," the STC said in a statement.

The central bank did not disclose how much money was taken, but a government source told Reuters it was 64bn riyals ($20m). The seized money had been printed in Russia for the central bank, the report said, citing a government source.

The secessionist group, which believes the south should be an independent state, seized Aden, the government's provisional seat, after battles against forces loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi in August.

However, the council says it needs resources to manage Aden and its surrounding provinces.

On 25 April, the STC stepped away from a power-sharing deal with the government and declared it would take control of Aden's port and airport and other state institutions in the region, such as the central bank.

An STC member told Middle East Eye in May that the council considered the economic battle key to its goals, and accused the central bank of wasting money by paying officials outside Yemen in US dollars. 

Meanwhile, the government said it plans to increase oil production by a quarter in coming months. The increase to 75,000 barrels per day would bring production to just over half the output before the country's civil war involving northern Houthis broke out in 2015. 

The Saudi-backed Hadi government controls the eastern and southern areas where Yemen's oil-and-gas fields are located, while the Iran-aligned Houthi group controls the capital Sanaa and the oil terminal of Ras Issa on the Red Sea.

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