Yemen Secessionists Seize Control of Key Island
The Southern Transitional Council (STC), a separatist group seeking a return to two Yemens, has taken over the island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea, overthrowing its governor and chasing out government troops. A UNESCO World Heritage site owing to its flora and fauna, the sparsely inhabited Socotra carries some strategic importance, lying in the Gulf of Aden close to busy Red Sea shipping lanes leading to and from the Suez Canal. The STC is an erstwhile ally of Yemen’s internationally recognized government in the latter’s fight against Iran-backed Houthi rebels, but in April created a schism by declaring self-rule. A major bone of contention is the port city of Aden, which the STC claims to control even though ministries and other official bases of power moved there when the Houthis captured the capital Sanaa in late 2014. The deposed governor of Socotra has slammed both Saudi Arabia, which has been backing the government’s fight against the Houthis, and the United Arab Emirates, seen as the STC’s patron, for ignoring the island’s takeover.