ADEN, (AFP) – Gunmen captured three soldiers and wounded five people in south Yemen on Sunday, local officials said, a day after southern activists said they sought to pressure Sanaa into a prisoner exchange.
Thousands took to the streets of the town of Daleh to protest at a court ruling in nearby Aden on Saturday sentencing Fares Abdullah Saleh to death for the twin October 11 bombings of an Aden sports centre that killed three people.
Shortly after the ruling, gunmen in Daleh and Lahij kidnapped five soldiers on Saturday, including two officers, local authorities said, revising downwards earlier reports on the number captured.
Three more soldiers, including an officer, were kidnapped on Sunday by gunmen who set up a checkpoint at the entrance to Daleh, said a local official who said the assailants were Southern Movement militants.
The officer, Ahmed al-Ghithi, was traveling by taxi toward Aden when he was captured, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Southern Movement, agitating for the south’s independence or increased autonomy, has said Saturday’s abductions were to pressure the authorities to free prisoners detained ahead of the Gulf Cup football tournament.
But the group has not confirmed its members abducted the soldiers on Sunday.
The November 22-December 5 football contest was staged in the south of the country under tight security after the Southern Movement vowed to try to disrupt the tournament.
A security official said two soldiers were among four people wounded on Sunday as gunmen fired on a bus at the entrance to Daleh. And Ahmed al-Hashimi, a motorist, was shot in a residential area, local officials and witnesses said.
Residents said dozens of gunmen from the Southern Movement were forcing businesses in Daleh to close and motorists to keep off the roads.
On Saturday, hundreds of people protested in Daleh, a centre of frequent anti-government demonstrations, blocking off the main road and burning tyres in the town centre, witnesses said.
Gunmen also fired into the air and vowed revenge against authorities after the court ruling.
South Yemen, where many residents complain of discrimination in the Sanaa government’s allocation of resources, was independent from the 1967 British withdrawal from the port city of Aden until it united with the north in 1990.
The region seceded in 1994, sparking a short-lived civil war that ended with it being overrun by northern troops.