Yemeni authorities have announced a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Aden starting on Monday following a night of gun battles between fighters and government forces that killed at least 12 people from both sides, according to a local government spokesman.
The government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has been struggling with lawlessness in the key port since militia members, backed by a Saudi-led Sunni Arab coalition, drove the Iran-allied Shia Houthis out in July.
Nizar Anwar, spokesman for the Aden local government, said the clashes were concentrated around the port’s cargo and container terminals.
Eight members of the security forces and four fighters died in the clashes, Anwar told Reuters, adding that security forces managed to gain control of both terminals late on Sunday night.
“The security committee has decided to impose a curfew on all parts of Aden from 8pm until 5am,” Anwar said, adding that the curfew would remain in place until further notice.
“This is a precautionary measure to deny armed elements freedom of movement.”
After the Southern Resistance, in alliance with the Arab coalition, retook Aden from the Houthis, the secessionist Yemeni group took over several public institutions, including the Aden port, and refused to hand them over until the Hadi government integrated them into Yemen’s army and security forces.
Security forces went to the city’s Mualla district on Sunday in a fresh effort to take over the cargo terminal there but the Southern Resistance fighters refused to leave.
Eventually Aidarous al-Zubaidi, the new governor of Aden, and Shalal Shaei, director of Aden’s security office – both originally from the Southern Resistance – formed a committee to meet the fighters controlling the terminal.
The committee succeeded in persuading the fighters to leave after promising to find them jobs in the security forces.
Hadi toured the Mualla facility on Monday, port sources said, indicating that the cargo terminal was under government control.
Descent into war
Yemen descended into a civil war in March when the Houthis forced Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia after they closed in on Aden, drawing in an Arab coalition assembled by the Saudis into the Yemen conflict.
Muslim fighters, local tribesmen and criminals have exploited the fighting to spread chaos in the areas vacated by the Houthis.
A series of attacks have rocked Aden since July, including a booby-trapped car attack that killed General Jaafar Mohammed Saad, Aden’s governor, and six members of his entourage last month.
In the latest attack, assailants killed on Monday Sheikh Ali Othman al-Gailani, a member of a Sunni Muslim Sufi group [a mystical school of Islam], after he left a mosque in the city’s Crater district, witnesses said.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack and the motive was not immediately clear.
However, the Islamic State of the Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and al-Qaeda oppose the Sufi school and have attacked its members elsewhere in the Middle East in recent years.