The troop buildup comes after Saudi military officials visited Abyan to ease tensions between the parties to the Riyadh agreement
STC reinforcements arrive to Abyan ahead of army convoy
A second batch of military reinforcements in 24 hours arrived Friday morning to the outskirts of the capital of Abyan governorate, Zanjibar, where Security Belt forces aligned with the Southern Transitional Council (STC) are based, defense ministry officials told Almasdar Online. Tanks, armored vehicles, ammunition and soldiers were seen passing through the town of Dofas on the outskirts of Zinjibar, according to the sources, who added that STC forces were deployed throughout the area in Sheikh Salem, Wadi Hassan and near Al-Wehdah International Stadium.
A day earlier, 1st Presidential Protection Brigade (PPB) forces loyal to Yemen’s President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi passed through Ataq, the capital of Shabwa governorate, on their way to Abyan, a Yemeni military source told Almasdar Online. The convoy of about 50 military vehicles is making its way to Yemen’s interim capital Aden, where the PPB forces will be tasked with guarding the presidential palace and political leaders including in the STC, as part of a power sharing deal called the Riyadh agreement designed to unify the anti-Houthi forces.
The buildup of troops in Abyan follows clashes between STC and PPB earlier this week, despite the visit of a Saudi military delegation to the governorate to oversee de-escalation efforts and troop withdrawals as part of the military annex of the Riyadh agreement.
Government spokesman Rajeh Badi accused the Southern Transitional Council (STC) of breaching the terms of the agreement when its forces ambushed the PPB as they approached Abyan’s coastal city of Shaqra.
STC spokesman Mansour Saleh justified the attacks, saying that the army convoy was over-equipped with military hardware and consisted entirely of recruits from northern governorates and aligned with the Islah political party. Islah forms a powerful bloc in the internationally recognized Hadi government.
Badi denied accusations that the government was mobilizing military forces.
Militias backing the STC, which has pushed for secession since forming in 2017, ejected Hadi’s government from Aden in August, before taking over Abyan and much of Shabwa governorate. Government forces soon rolled back STC advances in Shabwa and parts of Abyan before Saudi Arabia intervened. The Riyadh agreement, which emerged from peace talks in early November, seeks to fold the STC into Hadi’s government through a series of political and military reforms designed to evenly distribute the balance of power among competing factions.
Both sides continue to affirm their commitment to carrying out the agreement while blaming each other for violations.