SANAA (AFP) – Huthi rebels in Yemen said Sunday they will establish their own government of “national salvation” to rival the internationally recognised administration of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in the south.
The move was decided by a “supreme political council” created in July by the Iran-backed rebels and forces allied to Yemen s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
In early August, UN-backed peace talks in Kuwait between Yemen s warring parties were suspended.
On Sunday, Saleh al-Sammad, head of the supreme political council, appointed Abdel Aziz Ben Habtoor to form a government of national salvation, the rebels announced on their website sabanews.net.
Ben Habtoor is a former governor of the southern port city of Aden and a member of the political bureau of Saleh s General People s Congress.
The rebel announcement of a rival government is likely to further complicate the prospects of a political settlement in Yemen.
It coincided with the presence in the Saudi capital Riyadh ofUN Yemen envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, and the arrival in Sanaa of UN humanitarian operations chief Stephen O Brien.
The United Nations says the conflict has killed more than 6,600 people and displaced at least three million since a Saudi-led Arab coalition backing Hadi s government launched operations in March 2015.
Since then, the rebels have been pushed out of much of Yemen s south, but they still control nearly all of the country s Red Sea coast as well as swathes of territory around the capital Sanaa.
On Sunday, the coalition said the rebels pose a threat to shipping in the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait, after an attack on an Emirati vessel.
The coalition said Shiite Huthi militiamen had attacked the vessel “on its usual route to and from Aden to transfer relief and medical aid and evacuate wounded civilians”.
“Coalition air and naval forces targeted Huthi militia boats involved in the attack” near the Bab al-Mandab, it said, while “coalition forces rescued civilian passengers following the attack” on Friday.
“This incident demonstrates Huthi tactics of terrorist attacks against civilian international navigation in the Bab al-Mandab,” the coalition said in a statement.
The strait is a major shipping lane between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden leading into the Indian Ocean.
The rebels, in a statement posted Saturday on their sabanews.net website, claimed the attack which it said targeted and “completely destroyed” an Emirati warship with rockets as it neared Mokha on the Red Sea coast.
The United Arab Emirates military acknowledged “an incident” involving a chartered vessel under its command in the Bab al-Mandab as it was returning from a “routine” journey to Aden, but reported no casualties.
On Sunday, the rebels reported on sabanews.net that five people were killed and six wounded in a coalition air strike targeting fishing boats off Wahjah, south of Mokha.
That incident could not be independently confirmed.
The UAE is a key member of the coalition battling the Huthis and their allies.
On Sunday, the secretary general of Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdullatif al-Zayani, “strongly condemned” the attack on the Emirati vessel.
“This terrorist act endangers world seaborne trade in the Bab al-Mandab, contravenes the regulations of international shipping and hinders efforts to send aid and relief to Yemen,” Zayani said in a statement.