Members of Yemen’s Saudi-backed former government said Wednesday that around 100 separatists had disembarked in civilian clothes on Monday from a UAE naval vessel on Socotra, Reuters reported.
According to the sources, Abu Dhabi had trained a batch of 300 troops bound for Socotra in Yemen’s southern embattled city of Aden, where the administration of ex-president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi is based.
The deployment comes amid deepening rifts between forces loyal to the UAE and those supporting Saudi-backed Hadi.
UAE eyes strategic Yemeni island: SourcesYemeni sources say the UAE is trying to establish control over the strategic Yemeni island of Socotra.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, denied the reports of deployment, without elaborating.
In recent days, the UAE has reportedly increased the number of its military troops on Socotra amid ongoing tensions with Hadi. Emirati cargo flights have unloaded tanks, armored transports and heavy equipment on the scenery island.
Hadi loyalists say the UAE, which has been part of the Saudi-led coalition pounding Yemen since 2015, had abandoned an initial cause of fighting the Houthi Ansarullah movement, and is instead providing support to those seeking a separation of southern Yemeni territories from the north of the country.
UAE deploys troops, tanks to Yemen’s ‘jewel of Arabia’ The UAE boosts its military presence in Socotra amid divisions with Saudi-backed forces in Yemen.
Socotra, home to some 60,000 people, located near Somalia in the Gulf of Aden, is protected by the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO.
Reports have suggested that the UAE has been actively cementing its presence in Socotra since the very beginning of the Saudi-led war on Yemen in 2015.
A Persian Gulf country rich in oil, the UAE has initiated similar extraterritorial projects in other areas including in Eritrea, Djibouti, Somaliland and the Yemeni islet of Perim.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the aim of bringing the former Saudi-sponsored government back to power.
Earlier this month, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization tracking casualties in Yemen, announced that the death toll from the Saudi-led war surpassed 70,000 deaths, with more than 10,000 being killed in the five last months alone.
The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories.