S. Yemen Government Says It Quelled Coup Attempt

Posted: January 16, 1986

ADEN, South Yemen — The communist government of South Yemen yesterday claimed victory over another Marxist faction that had attempted a coup here, saying it was tightening control of the capital city of Aden after three days of fighting.

One official source told the Reuters news agency that "most of the rebel elements . . . have been arrested . . . and many others who tried to assassinate President Ali Nasser Mohammed have surrendered."

He added, "Life is gradually returning to normal after three days of fighting. President . . . Mohammed is continuing meetings with his (Yemeni Socialist) Party officials to confront causes of the failed coup attempt."

There was no independent confirmation of the goverment's claim of victory, and there were new reports from other sources that Mohammed - the target of the coup - had died after being wounded during an assassination attempt on Monday, when the fighting began.

In London, a spokesman for the British Foreign Office said "we have heard reports" that Mohammed died yesterday of wounds, but official sources in South Yemen denied that he was dead.

Some Western diplomats in Aden did say the government appeared to have gained the upper hand in fighting against a hard-line Marxist faction led by former President Abdul Fatah Ismail and Defense Minister Ali Ahmed Nasser Antar.

The Soviet Union, South Yemen's closest ally, yesterday broke a silence it had maintained since the attempted coup, saying, "Government troops have restored control in the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen."

Residents said fierce fighting in Aden died down about 5 p.m. yesterday, but that most people stayed at home, fearing additional violence.

South Yemen, with a population of about two million, lies near the mouth of the Red Sea on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, along a major shipping route.

Marine salvage executives based in the Persian Gulf said that wireless messages from ships that escaped from the port of Aden indicated that the fighting was mainly between the navy and the air force against the army. Arab diplomatic sources gave similar reports.

The captain of a Greek freighter who was able to take his ship out of the port said yesterday that the "air force and navy were together against the army. Who was the government side, we do not know."

Capt. George Bateras told the Associated Press in an interview aboard his 18,000-ton ship Telamon that the fighting around Aden harbor began Monday when three torpedo boats opened fire on some trucks that tried to enter the area.

He said tanks later joined the fight against the torpedo boats, which took cover behind anchored commercial vessels. A videotape of the battle provided by his crew showed torpedo boats firing on tanks on the pier. The tape showed a tank exploding at one point.

The British Broadcasting Corp. quoted Bateras as saying that many buildings were on fire, including the Defense Ministry, which normally had about 2,000 troops in it, and that pipelines were being hit and spilling fuel into the harbor.

Foreign embassies in the capital were embroiled in the fighting. Algeria's APS news agency said an Algerian diplomat was killed Tuesday when shells hit his home, and diplomatic sources said the British and Italian Embassies were also hit.

The marine salvage executives said dissident pilots of the air force used Soviet-built warplanes to attack troops loyal to Mohammed at Khormaksar, the site of Aden's international airport.

Diplomats and Persian Gulf sources have said the rebels apparently represent a faction that is even more pro-Soviet than the president.

Aden Radio said Antar and Ismail were among four leaders of the coup attempt who were executed on Monday, but another radio station broadcasting

from north of the capital said the four were still alive.

Diplomats said Ismail and his supporters opposed Mohammed's drive to improve ties with the neighboring Arab states of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen

Mohammed had been trying to improve relations with pro-Western Arab governments in an effort to win foreign aid. South Yemen has been heavily dependent on Soviet aid since it won independence from Britain in 1967.

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