06/22/2020, 17.25
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Yemen: 'Galapagos of the Indian Ocean' in the hands of southern separatists

The Southern Transitional Council, which controls Aden, has seized the Indian ocean island famous for its fauna and flora. President Hadi accuses separatists of acting like criminal gangs. The deposed governor reported an attack and raids by militias. The latter say they took over without any bloodshed and are "normalising the situation".

Aden (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Southern Transitional Council, a secessionist organisation in Yemen backed by the United Arab Emirates, has announced that they have taken control of Socotra Island, in the Arabian Sea.

The island, which is part of the Socotra Archipelago, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is known as the ‘Galapagos’ of the Indian Ocean because of its rich fauna and flora, including 825 different plant species, 307 of which endemic.

Over the weekend, the Council deposed the local administration, linked to the internationally-recognised, Saudi-backed Yemeni government, which has been at war for years with Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, who control the capital Sana'a.

Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi has accused the separatists of acting like criminal gangs, whilst the local governor, Ramzi Mahroos, reported the attack against the capital Hadibo by militants who carried out raids in the city.

For the governor, the Saudis and Emiratis turned a blind eye, leaving free rein to the separatists. The STC responded immediately, saying that they took control without violence, news agencies reported.

STC senior official Salem Abdullah al-Socotri is quoted as saying that the STC is “normalising the situation”. For now, no official comment has come from Riyadh or Abu Dhabi.

Socotra Island is located in the Indian Ocean, off the Horn of Africa, about 300 km from the Somali coast and 350 km south of Yemen, to which it belongs.

The area is strategically important for the control of the southern entrance to the Red Sea. In addition, the archipelago is of great naturalistic and environmental interest due to its exceptional variety of plant species.

The STC, which is based in Aden, proclaimed southern Yemen’s autonomy on 26 April, after complaining about a failed peace agreement with the government.

Houthi rebels instead control much of northern Yemen, including the capital Sana‘a, sign of an increasingly divided country whose population is burdened by widespread hunger and a disastrous health situation, which the COVID-19 pandemic could make worse with greater loss of life.

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