A Yemeni tribal leader has called on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to withdraw all military forces from Socotra, an island located off Yemen’s southeastern coast.
A video recorded late Sunday shows Abdullah bin Issa bin Afrar, a prominent tribal figure, addressing supporters in Yemen’s eastern Mahra province.
“[Yemen’s] Mahra and Socotra provinces have enjoyed peace and security since 1967,” bin Afrar says in the video, which appeared online on Monday.
“These two provinces have provided a safe haven for the Yemeni people during all the turbulence the country has recently witnessed,” he asserts.
The son of the last Afrar sultan (who ruled Socotra and Mahra for centuries until 1967), bin Afrar goes on to question the motive behind the recent deployment of UAE forces to Socotra.
He notes that the Shia Houthi rebel group, which has been fighting the Yemeni government since 2014, does not have a presence on the island.
“Are there Houthi forces [on the island] for the [Saudi-led] coalition to fight? Of course not,” bin Afrar says in the video.
“The deployment of [UAE] forces [to the island] in such large numbers is inexplicable,” he adds.
The tribal leader also reiterates his support for Yemen’s internationally-recognized president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, and a Saudi-led military coalition -- of which the UAE is a leading member -- which has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
Bin Afrar goes on to say that Socotra remains in need of development -- not military forces.
“These provinces [Socotra and Mahra] are safe; they don’t need such forces,” he says. “They require infrastructure, electricity, water, healthcare and education -- not armies.”
Tension has mounted between Yemen and the UAE since last week, when the latter sent a military force to Socotra without prior coordination with the Yemeni government, which since 2015 has been based in the coastal city of Aden.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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