Northern Yemenis 'will attack Aden in two days'

Northern Yemenis 'will attack Aden in two days'

by Brian Whitaker 

Originally published in The Guardian, 11 May 1994

A NORTH Yemeni minister, Dr Abdul Ali al-Karim al-Iryani, yesterday predicted that northern forces would attack the southern port of Aden within the next two days.

Dr Iryani, the minister of planning in the coalition government and a former prime minister of North Yemen, said: 'Within 24 to 48 hours all our forces will be concentrated around Aden.' The northern military command yesterday repeated claims that its forces were only three miles from Aden, while the southern Yemen army insisted that it had blocked the northern advance.

Speaking to the Guardian by telephone from his home in Sana'a, Dr Iryani said a large northern force had faced very strong resistance south of Taiz for two or three days but had broken through on Monday, with 'the complete collapse of the southern fighting front in the governorate of Lahij' (just north of Aden).

He said the next objective was the southern Socialists' military base 30 miles north of Aden at al-Anad - 'the biggest base ever built by the Soviet Union in the Middle East'. There were no longer any defenders around the base, he said, and those inside numbered no more than 3,000. Independent sources say the approaching northern troops number about 18,000.

Dr Iryani continued: 'Aden and its approaches are still very well defended.

The Adenis have a very, very severe shortage of human resources but a tremendous stock of arms.' The northern forces intended to capture the refinery, he said, cutting off almost all supplies of fuel to the Socialists. Dr Iryani said he expected the strongly defended natural rock fortress of Crater to be the last area of Aden to fall.

The minister repeated northern claims that the number of casualties during the war so far had been 'unbelievably small', with less than 100 dead on the northern side. 'This is because it is a war between brigades of armies in areas that are under-populated,' he said.

Asked if this might change when Aden is attacked, he replied: 'That depends on whether the Socialists use the population as a shelter.' He denied the north was running short of fuel and added that two tankers were about to arrive in the northern port of Hodeida.

The apparent shortage of petrol in northern filling stations may be deliberate, to restrict civilian mobility. The north's great fear is urban insurrection, and use of the telephone system appears to be rationed for similar reasons.

So far there has been no conflict in the southern oil-rich province of Hadramawt, far to the east. Dr Iryani said: 'The surrender of Aden is our main and only objective. The Socialists have withdrawn practically all their forces from Hadramawt. After Aden, that can be handled very easily.'