Southern separatist forces launch military offensive to seize Yemen’s oil-rich Shabwa

The forces of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) on Sunday launched a large-scale military operation to seize the strategic oil-rich province of Shabwa in southeastern Yemen.

The military operation comes after four days of intense battles with the Saudi-backed Yemeni government forces over the control of a number of key military and security bases in Attaq, capital city of Shabwa.

The elite military units of the STC based in Shabwa announced in a statement that a new operation, dubbed as Inevitable Fate, was launched to “liberate Shabwa from the Muslim Brotherhood militias,” in reference to the Saudi-backed Yemeni government forces.

The statement said the STC forces took control of several military locations including the Galfouz checkpoint at the eastern entrance to Attaq.

A local source confirmed to Xinhua that the eastern entrance of Attaq is witnessing intense battles between the STC military units and the Yemeni government forces, causing huge explosions.

The source said on condition of anonymity that the positions of the government forces came under heavy shelling carried out by the STC military units.

The STC military units backed by scores of tribesmen are making progress on the ground in the ongoing fighting with the government forces, added the source.

Heavy military reinforcements backed by more than 65 armored vehicles dispatched from the southern port city of Aden arrived in Shabwa and engaged in the fighting against the government forces.

Medical sources in Shabwa confirmed to Xinhua that around 15 people, including two civilians, were killed within the past 24 hours.

On Thursday, the southern forces called on the Saudi-backed Yemeni government forces to peacefully evacuate the military bases and hand over the administration of Shabwa to the STC.

The Saudi-backed government forces, particularly army units loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islah party, decided to fight the STC for the control of Shabwa.

Sources of the STC confirmed that the STC leadership vowed to completely seize Shabwa during the upcoming days.

The STC is a part of the Saudi-led Arab coalition to fight Iran-backed Houthi militias in northern Yemen in a war that has rekindled old strains between the north and south of Yemen.

The impoverished Arab country has been locked in a civil war since late 2014, when the Houthis overran much of the country and seized all northern provinces including the capital Sanaa.