Yemenis protest UN peace roadmap

Aden (AFP) - Thousands of Yemenis protested Thursday against a new UN plan to end the devastating conflict between rebels and the Saudi-backed government, saying it would legitimise the insurgents' power grab.

The demonstrations in the southern city of Aden and other locations took place shortly before UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed arrived in Sanaa for peace talks with the Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

"We reject the plan of Ould Cheikh (Ahmed)," read one of the banners carried by protesters in Aden -- the government's temporary base -- who responded to a call by authorities in the city to rally.

"No to an initiative that legitimises the coup," said another.

President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi on Saturday rejected the envoy's peace plan, saying it would reward the Huthis for seizing the capital and "opens a door towards more suffering and war".

Hadi enjoys the backing of a Saudi-led Arab coalition that launched a military campaign in March 2015 after the rebels closed in on his refuge in Aden, forcing him to flee to Riyadh.

The contents of the roadmap, which the envoy presented to the rebels last week, have not been made public.

But informed sources say it calls for agreement on naming a new vice president after the rebels withdraw from the capital Sanaa and other cities and hand over heavy weapons to a third party.

Hadi would then transfer power to the vice president who would appoint a new prime minister to form a government in which the north and south of Yemen would have equal representation.

- Attack on military camp -

Hundreds of people also rallied against the plan Thursday in Marib, east of Sanaa, and in the southeastern province of Hadramawt, witnesses said.

Hadi has described the new proposal as an "explicit departure" from the UN Security Council's resolution 2216, which calls on rebels to withdraw from territory they have captured since 2014.

The Huthis have called the plan a "basis for discussion" despite containing "fundamental flaws".

The conflict has killed nearly 7,000 people since the coalition launched its campaign, according to the United Nations.

On Thursday, a military official said eight rebels and five pro-Hadi soldiers had been killed in clashes in central Taez province over the past 24 hours.

Eleven rebels were wounded in the fighting in Salo, which has forced most of the district's 5,000 residents to flee, the official said.

In Mukalla, the provincial capital of Hadramawt, a suicide attacker crashed his bomb-laden truck into the fence of a military camp for naval forces, a security source said.

The refrigerated truck, used to transport fresh fish, exploded at the fence, wounding three soldiers and two civilians, the source said.

Hadi's troops, backed by the coalition, recaptured Mukalla in April from Al-Qaeda militants who had ruled the city for one year.

Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have exploited the conflict in Yemen to expand their presence across the south and southeast, carrying out frequent attacks against pro-Hadi forces and government officials.