SANAA, Yemen

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) deployed military officials to the strategic Yemeni Island of Socotra, a Yemeni adviser said on Tuesday.

“The UAE dispatched military commanders to Socotra,” Mukhtar Al-Rahbi, an adviser to the Yemeni information minister, said on Twitter.

He said the move coincided with the docking of an Emirati ship at the archipelago carrying ammunition to militias situated there.

According to the official, the development follows a military escalation on the island, but without giving further details.

There has been no immediate comment from Abu Dhabi regarding Al-Rahbi’s statement.

The claim came as the UAE announced last October that it had ended its military presence in war-torn Yemen.

But Yemen’s undersecretary of the Ministry of Information, Muhammad Qizan, insisted that UAE still has military presence in the country, calling on the Gulf state to “withdraw” its troops from “Socotra, Balhaf (in Shabwa province), and Mayon (an island west of the country)” and to “stop arming militias”.

While Al-Rahbi did not clarify the identities of the military officials, the Emirati-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) has controlled Socotra since last June after defeating government forces.

Yemeni officials have previously accused the UAE of seeking to partition Yemen by controlling the south and taking control over its strategic ports, accusations Abu Dhabi denies. 

Yemen has been engulfed by violence and instability since 2014, when Houthi rebels captured much of the country, including the capital Sanaa.

The UAE was part of a Saudi-led coalition that launched a massive air campaign against the Houthis in an effort to reinstate the Yemeni government. 

The coalition’s intervention in the impoverished country has worsened the situation, causing one of the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crises with 233,000 people killed, nearly 80% or about 30 million needing humanitarian assistance and protection, and more than 13 million in danger of starving to death, according to UN estimates.

*Ibrahim Mukhtar in Ankara contributed to this report

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