Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen is bracing for more violence following the assassination of ultra-conservative cleric Ali Bawazir in Hadramaut and the ongoing pro-independence rallies in the South of the country. Mass anti-government protests were also reported in the capital, Sana’a, on Friday, calling for President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to achieve the political and economic goals of the revolution that broke out in 2011.
Bawazir was killed by unidentified militants in the city of Gheil Bawazir, Hadramaut. He previously split from the Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Al-Sharia group, becoming an outspoken critic of the wave of assassinations targeting senior government and military officials over the past three years in Yemen. The Yemeni government condemned the killing of the Salafist cleric.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, local sources confirmed that the number of assassinations declined in Hadramaut after Bawazir issued a statement condemning the targeting of government officials.
At least one person was reported killed and 20 wounded in clashes between pro-independence demonstrators and police in Southern Yemen, according to media reports. Thousands of Yemenis took to the streets in Aden, Yemen’s largest Southern city, to protest against the move to divide the country into different federal regions.
Eyewitnesses reported that the government had stepped up security in Aden to deal with the protesters. In a statement, the Consultative Forum for the Sons of the South voiced concerns over the heightened security measures in Aden, which they considered “aimed at preventing Southerners from peacefully expressing their rights.”
According to the statement, the security preparations “bring to mind the appalling massacre committed by security forces on February 21, 2013.”
“The right to peaceful protest is enshrined in international agreements,” the statement added, warning against “Aden’s authorities repeating last year’s incidents.”
Authorities banned protests in Aden with Yemeni security forces attempting to cordon off public areas of the city. Demonstrators reportedly attempted to march into the city center following Friday prayers and were dispersed after police opened fire and used teargas.
In a tripartite meeting in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, former South Yemeni Presidents Ali Nasser Muhammad and Ali Salim Al-Beidh and the head of the Southern Movement, Hassan Ahmad Baoum, announced their rejection of a federal system in Yemen, claiming that the division of the country into separate federal regions aims to subvert the Southern cause.
Many Southerners oppose Yemen’s six-region federal formation, with the South being split into two regions—Aden and Hadramaut—believing that this aims to dilute the South’s authority and identity.