Officials on the island of Socotra announced that separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) had seized control of the territory late on Saturday, June 20, following several days of escalating tensions and clashes. Socotra governor Ramzi Mahroos, appointed by the internationally-recognized government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, declared the development a coup and stated that his administration had been abandoned by coalition-backed pro-government forces who withdrew in the face of the STC offensive. Earlier on Saturday, the STC claimed to have occupied key government facilities in the provincial capital Hadibu, a day after seizing control of the security directorate and other strategic locations in the west of the city. Government sources claimed that STC fighters used medium and heavy weapons in their assault on Hadibu, but there were no immediate reports of significant casualties. Mahroos is believed to have remained at his residence elsewhere on the island, but several other government officials and senior military officers, as well as an unspecified number of civilians, are reported to have been arrested by STC forces.
Further clashes are likely on Socotra in the medium term.
Yemen is engaged in a complex and multifaceted conflict, ongoing since Houthi rebels entered into a civil war with the Yemeni government, supported by a Saudi-led coalition, in 2015. Nominally allies against the Houthi, since August 2019 the Southern Transitional Council (STC) has frequently clashed with government forces over control of southern Yemen. Although there have been attempts to broker agreement between the two, tensions have increased since the STC declared self-rule in Aden and other key southern provinces in April 2020.
Due to poor security conditions, many Western governments strongly advise their citizens against all travel to Yemen. Travel to the country should only be considered with proper security protocols in place. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel.
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