Source: REUTERS 17/04/2010
ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - A car bomb in Yemen killed a retired army officer and wounded his brother, a colonel, in a flashpoint southern province where separatist sentiment is strong, officials and local media said on Thursday.
Two separatist protesters were shot and wounded elsewhere in the south when authorities opened fire to disperse a protest, and thousands of Yemenis took part in demonstrations in two main towns in solidarity with the southern opposition.
Tensions between Yemeni security forces and southern secessionists protesting against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's government have been on the rise in recent months, accompanied by deaths and widespread arrests on both sides.
North and South Yemen formally united in 1990 but many in the south, where most of impoverished Yemen's oil facilities are located, complain northerners have used unification to seize resources and discriminate against them.
The car bomb that killed the retired officer was the latest in a string of killings in Shabwa province, where a soldier was shot dead at a police post on April 4, the same day a separatist activist and his son were killed on their farm.
Yemeni officials told Reuters the retired officer was killed by a bomb placed under the driver's seat of his car on Wednesday night. He was retired but his brother worked with security forces.
Yemen, struggling to stabilise a fractious country, jumped to the forefront of Western security concerns after the Yemen-based regional arm of al Qaeda claimed responsibility for a failed attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound plane in December.
Western allies and neighbouring oil exporter Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda is exploiting Yemen's instability to recruit and train militants for attacks in the region and beyond.
PROTESTS ACROSS YEMEN
Thousands of peaceful opposition protesters gathered in Sanaa's main stadium and marched in Taizz south of the capital to demand a national political dialogue and an end to a military clampdown on two southern provinces.
They also urged the state to end arrests of southern separatist activists and complained about rising prices in the poorest Arab country. Smaller demonstrations took place across the south.
Witnesses said a leader in the southern separatist movement, Shalal Ali Shaia, escaped an assassination attempt in the province of Dalea, where violence between secessionists and authorities has been heaviest.
They said he and two local journalists travelling with him came under heavy gunfire shortly after passing through a security checkpoint as he returned from a protest. Bullets struck their vehicle but no one was injured, the witnesses said.
Yemen risks a sustained separatist insurgency in the south, scene of increased tit-for-tat violence, analysts say, unless it seriously addresses grievances of southerners who say their region is neglected by the state.
There have already been signs, such as recent ambush-style attacks blamed on separatists, that the southern conflict is becoming more and more like an insurgency and less a peaceful protest movement, analysts say.
In addition to its struggle with the separatists, Yemen is trying to bring an end to a long-running war with Shi'ite rebels in the north. It sealed a truce with the rebels in February but analysts say it is only a matter of time before fighting starts again as grievances have not been adequately addressed.
(Additional reporting by Mohamed Sudam in Sanaa; Writing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton