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UAE-backed militia besiege Yemen governor of Socotra amid fears of coup

Ramzi Mahrous, Governor of Yemeni island Socotra on 20 October 2019 [Twitter]
Ramzi Mahrous, Governor of Yemeni island Socotra on 20 October 2019 [Twitter]

UAE-backed militias yesterday imposed a siege on the residence of the Yemeni Governor of Socotra, Ramzi Mahrouz, who opposes Emirati involvement on the island.

Local sources also say the so-called Security Belt militia have cut off access to the island’s central bank and main roads. It has been reported that tents have been set up in front of the gate of the Mahrouz’s residence.

In spite of the UAE withdrawing its forces from the mainland port city of Aden as part of the handover agreement with the Saudis, there has been an escalation in tensions in recent days on Socotra.

The UAE has been unloading cargo from its military ship in the island’s port on Tuesday, after weeks of being prevented from doing so by government forces, according to Yemen Press.

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UAE representative, Khalfan Al Mazrouei, also met on Tuesday with elements of the separatist affiliated militia, with sources pointing out that Mazrouei equipped its members with weapons and deployed near the governorate building controlled by government forces.

The militia were said to have been deployed in close proximity to the port of Hulaf and organised a women’s protest demanding that the Governor Mahrouz step down citing corruption and the obstruction of development programmes – presumably funded by the UAE – on the island. The Yemen Press Agency stated that the women’s protests were used as a pretext by the militia to stage a coup.

Local news source, the Socotra Post stated that the unrest was caused by a decision by Mahrouz to prevent the entry of foreigners to the island, without a visa from the official authorities. According to a memorandum filed yesterday to President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Mahrouz said he directed the army to remove tents and reopen roads in front of the governorate headquarters and to lift the armed siege within 24 hours.

READ: UAE hands over Yemen’s Aden to Saudi, withdraws troops

One pro-separatist news account on Twitter suggest that the demonstrations and sit-ins are the largest in the island’s history.

There have been several previous attempts by UAE forces to stage a coup against the Saudi-backed Yemeni government on the strategically located island. In addition to withdrawing from Aden, the UAE has reportedly retreated its forces from the Red Sea island of Zuqar, west of the coast of Hudaydah and near the Bab El-Mandeb strait, following reports that the Yemeni Coast Guard took control of the island.

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