Banished Aden governor forms independent "South Yemen" council
The former governor of Aden announced the formation of a transitional political council to govern the south of Yemen on Thursday, just weeks after a presidential decree dismissed the official from his post, leading to mass protests from pro-secessionists.
Aidarous al-Zubaidi, the new president of the southern council, will be supported by his vice president Hani Bin Breik – a former minister of state who was also controversially dismissed by President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi earlier this month.
The council consists of 26 members.
These include the governors of Hadramout, Shabwa, Lahj, and Socotra, in addition to leading separatist figures and tribal leaders, said local journalist Saeed al-Batati.
Both al-Zubaidi and Bin Breik are leading figures in the southern secessionist movement and enjoy support from the United Arab Emirates.
In a televised speech al-Zubaidi said that the the newly established council was willing to continue working with the Saudi-led Arab coalition - which also involves the UAE - to battle terrorism in the county, despite the coalition's recognition of Hadi as the sole legitimate leader of Yemen.
Aden was declared the temporary capital after Hadi's government relocated from Sanaa following the Houthi takeover in September 2014.
Despite Yemen's unification in 1990, secessionists in the south continue to feel marginalised by the government in Sana'a, and have repeatedly called for independence from the north.
Although Hadi hails from the south himself, the official worked as vice president for 18 years under former President Ali Abdullah Saleh - now a rival in Yemen's internal power struggle - and is thus seen by some southern factions as a product of the international community and a puppet in the hands of the Saudis.
The prospect of a new secession could complicate the war waged by the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels, who remain in control of the capital Sanaa and swathes of north and west Yemen.
The development could lead to the existence of three entities claiming legitimacy over Yemen - Hadi's in Riyadh, the Houthi-Saleh alliance in Sana'a, in addition to the new UAE-backed alliance claiming to represent the south.
The internationally recognised government of Yemen has yet to comment on developments in the south of the country.