Thu May 11, 2017 3:52PM
People protest against the sacking of senior officials by former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in Aden, Yemen, May 4, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
People protest against the sacking of senior officials by former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in Aden, Yemen, May 4, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi's governor for Yemen's port city of Aden, recently fired by the Saudi-backed former president, has launched an autonomous body to manage the war-wracked country's south.

Maj. Gen. Aidarous al-Zubaidi, who has fallen out with Hadi but is close to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), formed the new "transitional political council of the south" on Thursday. 

The new council is made up of 26 members, including the governors of five southern provinces and two Hadi ministers. 

The sacked governor said the new council would "manage the provinces of the south and represent (them) domestically and internationally".

Hadi dismissed his governor for Aden and his state minister Hani bin Breik on April 27 over their alleged close ties with the United Arab Emirates.

In a recent interview with Middle East Eye online news portal, Hadi accused the UAE of acting "like an occupation power in Yemen rather than a force of liberation.” 

The two men are also believed to be close to southern independence activists.

The move was a new blow to Hadi's efforts to keep together loyalists and reflected divisions among his supporters. Hadi has relied heavily on the militia recruited in the south, where separatist sentiments run deep. 

The announcement on the formation of the council also comes days after thousands of people held a demonstration in Aden to denounce the sacking of senior officials by Hadi.

During last Thursday’s protest, organizers called on Zoubeidi to set up a "national leadership to represent the south" and pledged their allegiance to it. Supporters of the separatist Southern Movement were among the demonstrators.

Aden, Yemen’s second largest city, used to be the capital of the once-independent South Yemen before unification in 1990. 

According to some sources, Saudi Arabia's King Salman tried to intervene to calm tensions, meeting with Hadi last weekend to smooth things over between him and the UAE but it is unclear if he made any progress.

Saudi Arabia, backed by its allies such as the UAE, has been leading a brutal military campaign against Yemen since 2015. The kingdom has also imposed an aerial and naval blockade on its southern neighbor. 

This photo taken on July 7, 2015 shows smoke billowing after Saudi airstrikes in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a. (Photo by AFP)

Yemen’s army, backed by Houthi Ansarullah fighters and popular forces, has been defending the country against the Saudi invasion which began in March 2015 with the aim of reinstalling Hadi.

The Saudi aggression has killed over 12,000 Yemenis, according to recent tallies. The US, Britain and some other Western countries have provided huge amounts of arms and military training to the Saudi forces.