Saudi Arabia has abruptly withdrawn its forces from the Yemeni island of Socotra just two days after taking control of the local authority’s headquarters in the capital Hadibu, which had itself been under attack from UAE-backed militia aligned with the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC).
Clashes had intensified in recent days, including reports of Saudi air strikes against military bases used by the STC. There were also reports of Saudi reinforcements arriving on the island to provide support to militias associated with the Islah Party who fight on behalf of the Saudi-based Yemeni government.
However, according to the Yemen Press Agency, Islah and STC militia have reached an agreement which prompted the Saudi forces to abandon their positions on the island.
STC reinforcements from the southern mainland provinces of Dhalea and Abyan are continuing to make their way to Socotra despite the uneasy truce between the factions. Local sources believe the Saudi withdrawal will leave Socotra residents to fight against the STC, who will likely succeed in consolidating more control over the island, adding further weight to claims by some observers that the UAE is seeking to annex the strategically located archipelago.
Last month the STC, based in the southern port city of Aden, declared autonomy from the UN-recognised Yemeni government, which was rejected by the government and southern provinces and has caused further tensions and divisions within the coalition led by Saudi against the Houthi-led government based in the capital Sanaa.