November 30, 2009 / 12:06 PM / 10 years ago

Yemeni forces deploy in Aden to control separatists

ADEN, Yemen, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Yemeni security forces spread out across the southern port city of Aden on Monday, clamping down on any display of secessionist sentiment on the anniversary of the south’s independence from Britain.

Residents said hundreds of soldiers lined the streets of Aden, where southern activists had been planning a festival to commemorate the day the last British soldier departed in 1967.

In the run-up to the anniversary several clashes erupted between the Sanaa government and southerners, who have long complained that northerners abused a 1990 unity agreement to exploit their resources and discriminate against them.

Southern activist websites said security forces had blocked off all entrances to Aden, where the authorities had warned against gatherings or demonstrations without a permit.

Yemen’s government is already fighting a revolt in the north by minority Zaydi Shi’ites, who also complain of neglect and oppression. Neighbouring Saudi Arabia was recently drawn into the northern conflict when rebels seized some Saudi territory.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, fears growing instability in Yemen is giving al Qaeda an opportunity to strengthen its foothold in its impoverished neighbour.

On Sunday, activists shot dead a soldier in the southern province of Shabwa. A second soldier died of wounds from clashes there on Wednesday, according to a security official.

Secessionists also clashed with the armed forces in the Radfan region on Sunday. One person was killed and a grenade hit the local intelligence headquarters, the same official said.

Members of activist group Southern Movement killed two northern tribesmen in another town, the official said.

Violence erupted this year after an April 28 opposition rally to mark the 1994 civil war in which President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s forces defeated the secessionist south, known before the unity deal as the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen.

Protests led by army officers, riled by their meagre pensions after forced retirement, turned violent in 2007.

As discontent over jobs and other economic grievances widened, southern leaders have talked of northern "occupation" and called for secession. (Reporting by Mohammed Mokhashaff and Mohamed Ghobari; Writing by Raissa Kasolowsky; Editing by Alistair Lyon and Louise Ireland) ((raissa.kasolowsky@thomsonreuters.com; +971 4 391 8031; Reuters Messaging: raissa.kasolowsky.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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