Fighting between Yemeni president supporters and opponents halts Aden flights

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 19, 2015 2:35 AM

ADEN (Reuters) - Clashes broke out between militia loyal to Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and rival security forces on Thursday near the airport in the southern city of Aden, bringing air traffic to a halt, local officials said.

They said both sides used medium and light weapons in the fighting near a base that is used by special forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, an ally of the Shi'ite Muslim Houthi movement that controls northern Yemen.

The fighting around the base in the Khor Maksar district of Aden spread to residential districts and prompted roads to the airport to be closed.

There were no details on casualties in the clashes. Airport authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.

The rise to power of the Iran-backed Houthis since September has deepened divisions in Yemen's complex web of political and religious allegiances, and left the country increasingly cut off from the outside world.

Tensions have been heightened in Aden since Hadi fled there in February after escaping a month of house arrest in Sanaa by Houthi forces who seized the capital in September 2014.

Hadi has been trying to consolidate his control over Aden since he fled there, ordering the sacking of the commander of the city's garrison, General Abdel-Hafez al-Saqqaf, and replacing him with one of his officers.

Saqqaf, however, has refused to hand over command of the force, estimated between 1,500-2,000 troops culminating in a standoff.

(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf, writing by Sami Aboudi, Editing by William Maclean and Michael Perry)