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Fighting in the south between separatists and government forces points to why peace is even more elusive. Photography by Achilleas Zavallis. Tue 1 Oct E very soldier in the Yemeni city of Aden is on edge. The main checkpoint on the coastal road has two large holes in the roof from mortar shells and the beach has been dug up into berms to slow the advance of any hostile vehicles.
The problem is that the 25 men milling around their posts are n ot sure what their enemy looks like. In the recent fighting which saw the separatist Southern Transitional Council STC eject from the city troops loyal to the exiled Yemeni president — their former allies — al-Qaida took advantage of the chaos, putting on STC uniforms to ambush the soldiers here.
They all want the same thing, which is to keep the south weak. What we found was a complicated tangle of separatist militias and politicians trying to consolidate control in a situation where alliances that may still exist on paper do not mean anything in reality. After simmering hostility for years, the southerners and the government of the president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi came to blows thanks to the Houthis: a devastating drone and missile attack on a military parade in Aden last month killed more than 30 STC soldiers, including an important senior commander, Munir Mahmoud, known as Abu al-Yamama.
Southerners accused the Hadi government of disregarding the threat posed to southern forces by the Houthis by failing to share intelligence. The fighting also called the stability of the Saudi-led coalition into question after the reaction of the United Arab Emirates, its second-biggest member.
The port city of Aden is nestled in the natural harbour formed by the crater of a dormant volcano. Jagged mountains surround it, curled around the city like a sleeping dragon. Many southerners say they were not happy with the creation of modern Yemen in and that the national government has consistently marginalised them.