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Daily News Analysis

Former Yemeni president chased to his Aden hideout

Crescent International

You can run but you can't hide seems to be the message being delivered by one ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh to another, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The Saudis forced Saleh to resign in February 2012; the Houthis drove Hadi from power last month and put him under house arrest in Sana'a. Hadi fled to Aden making it his temporary capital but trouble seems to have followed him there as today's attack on Aden Airport showed.

Thursday March 19, 2015, 10:13 DST

Fierce fighting between forces loyal to two former presidents—one still claiming to be president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi—and a former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh who believes he should be president—erupted today (March 19) at Aden international airport.

Early reports indicated three Saleh loyalists were shot dead when airport security forces reinforced by pro-Hadi troops were rushed to the scene. Huge explosions have rocked the airport with machinegun fire being heard throughout the day. Nearly 100 passengers bound for Cairo were ordered off Yemen Airlines plane and rushed to the terminal building from where they were ordered out as Hadi loyalists took up positions. The attackers—a unit of police commandos loyal to Saleh and commanded by Brigadier General Abdul-Hafez al-Saqqaf—stormed the airport early this morning.

Al-Saqqaf was “sacked” by Hadi a few weeks ago, a move the police commander refused and continued to occupy the office. Soon thereafter, the Houthi militia that had taken control of security in the capital city and restored order after years of turmoil put Hadi under house arrest. A number of other Hadi loyalists were also put under house arrest.

The latest fighting had started at a security forces’ base adjacent to the airport in Aden. A convoy of tanks and armored vehicles was dispatched from the city centre to the airport, according to security officials. Defence Minister, Major General Mahmoud al-Subaihi, a Hadi loyalist, led a motorcade of two-dozen armored cars to boost the airport’s defenders. Al-Subaihi had also fled Sana‘a where he was under house arrest, like his boss Hadi, and made Aden his base.

If Hadi thought he would be safe in Aden, he has had a rude shock. Trouble seems to have followed him to the southern tip of the impoverished country. A number of countries relocated their embassies from Sana‘a to Aden, including the US, several European countries and “Saudi” Arabia. The latter also tried to persuade Pakistan to follow suit. For once, it seems the Pakistanis showed a better judgment and politely declined the “Saudis’” unsolicited advice. If the international airport in Aden, a major hub in the region, falls in the hands of Saleh loyalists, it would further isolate Hadi who lives in a huge house on a hilltop overlooking the sea.

He is protected by “loyalist” forces but how long will this last and how loyal are these troops will determine Hadi’s already uncertain future.


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