Agence France Presse
Published — Friday 22 February 2013
Last update 22 February 2013 2:00 am
ADEN: Yemeni police shot dead four people in Aden yesterday in clashes with protesters calling for southern independence on the first anniversary of the ouster of autocratic leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, their movement said. The police fired on the protesters after thousands of them had gathered at a square in the southern port city, Fathi Ben Lazraq, a member of the Southern Movement, told AFP.
Three activists “were killed by police gunfire as they were trying to reach the place where the rally was being held,” said Ben Lazraq, adding that a passerby was also shot dead.
A rival rally was held in the same spot by members of Al-Islah (reform) party, in support of unity and of President Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi, whose uncontested election ended 33 years of iron-fisted rule under Saleh. The powerful Southern Movement is demanding independence for south Yemen, and had warned of unrest if Al-Islah went ahead with rival demonstrations.
Twenty-eight southerners were also wounded by the police in clashes around Aden as they tried to prevent protesters from entering the city from neighboring provinces, according to the group.
Two policemen were wounded by sniper fire from the rooftops of buildings surrounding the protest square, security officials said.
Aden was paralyzed on Thursday as security forces deployed heavily around the city, and amid fears by residents that the rival rallies would degenerate into violence, an AFP correspondent reported.
Thousands of Al-Islah supporters gathered in the area, waving Yemeni flags and holding portraits of Hadi as well as banners reading “unity is our strength.” The southerners, for their part, carried flags of the former South Yemen, which was a separate state before unification with the north in 1990.
They also displayed pictures of Ali Salem Al-Baid, who served as the last president of the region before union. “Revolution in the south, occupiers go out,” they chanted.