Three south Yemeni independence activists were killed and five wounded today when demonstrations in southern towns sparked clashes with police, opposition sources said. Two Southern Movement followers were killed and two wounded in a gunfight during protests in the town of Daleh, a leading opposition figure said, asking not to be named. Another activist was killed and three wounded in a similar clash as police tried to recapture a government building occupied by separatist activists in the town of Tur al-Bahah, in Lahij province, another source said.
Demonstrators brandished flags of former South Yemen and chanted separatist slogans, like "Revolution Oh South," witnesses said. Pro-independence protests have multiplied in the south in the face of Yemen's worsening economic problems. South Yemen was independent from 1967 until it united with the north in 1990. An attempt to break away again in 1994, sparking a short-lived civil war that ended when the south was overrun by northern troops.
On Monday, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh warned separatists that they could not prevail against the security forces but he also offered to engage in dialogue over their demands. "The separatist flags are going to burn in the coming days and weeks ... If there are any political demands, they are welcome. Come to dialogue," he said. Meanwhile, opposition parties organised demonstrations in the north against what they saw as the government's heavy-handed approach in the south.
Thousands took to the street of the city of Taiz, answering a call by the opposition coalition to protest against "the militarisation of southern provinces," and demonstrate "solidarity with the demands of the Southern Movement," according to banners raised by protesters. Police dispersed the rally using fire hoses and batons. A peaceful protest was also organised in the capital Sanaa in which some five thousand opposition supporters took part.
The opposition coalition, which includes both northern and southern groups, calls for the social and economic demands of the south to be met, but stops short of backing renewed independence, which is now overtly championed by some members of the Southern Movement. * AFP