(Bloomberg) --

Southern Yemeni separatists have gained control of Socotra, the strategically placed island off the Horn of Africa, and started implementing self-rule.

“The southern forces have stormed the special task forces camp, the last stronghold of the camps of Muslim brotherhood in Hadiboh,” the island’s largest town, Salem Thabet, a leading member of the UAE-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council, said in a statement on Saturday. The Muslim brotherhood’s Islah party is the biggest in the Yemeni government.

Clashes between the separatists and the Yemeni government forces erupted on Friday on the island recognized by UNESCO as globally important for biodiversity. Yemen is strategically significant because it lies on a waterway linking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden that is a conduit for much of the world’s oil.

A November power-sharing deal between Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and the secessionist STC had been meant to reconcile one time allies fighting Iran-aligned Houthi rebels since 2015. Following the failure of the deal, the STC in April announced self-rule in southern Yemen.

The STC already controls the provinces of Aden, Lahj, Al-Dhale and part of Abyan, where fighting between the two sides continues.

Saudi Arabia’s military intervention was meant to swiftly restore Hadi’s administration after it was ousted by the Houthis from the capital, Sana’a. But the fighting has dragged on, creating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with tens of thousands killed and millions left hungry and forced from their homes.

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