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Tight Security as Yemen Hosts Football Gulf Cup - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Football fans with Saudi flags walk past a billboard for the Gulf Cup featuring President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern city of Aden. (AFP)

Football fans with Saudi flags walk past a billboard for the Gulf Cup featuring President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern city of Aden. (AFP)

ADEN, Yemen (AFP) – Restive Yemen hosts the Gulf Cup football tournament from Monday with security tight in the face of calls by campaigners for renewed independence for the country’s south to disrupt the event.

It is the first time that the Arab world’s poorest country has staged the annual tournament since its launch in 1970.

Iraq and the six oil-rich Gulf states will be competing with Yemen in the tournament which continues until December 5.

Matches will be played in the main southern city of Aden and in nearby Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province.

The authorities have mobilised some 30,000 police to provide security at the stadiums and around the visiting teams’ hotels, the tournament’s security chief General Saleh Zawara said.

He said there would be six security cordons around each of the venues.

On Tuesday, activists of the Southern Movement, a coalition of autonomist and pro-independence groups, vowed in a statement to try to disrupt the tournament.

Yemeni prosecutors implicated one of the movement’s leaders, Shalal Ali al-Shaea, in twin bomb blasts in Aden in October.

The south was independent from 1967 when the British withdrew until it united with the north in 1990.

It seceded in 1994, sparking a brief civil war that ended with it overrun by northern troops.

Many residents complain of discrimination by the Sanaa government in the distribution of resources and the region has seen a spate of violent protests in recent months.

It has also witnessed growing violence by Al-Qaeda, which has found safe haven in the south and east of Yemen, Osama bin Laden’s ancestral homeland.

Yemeni officials have been at pains to reassure the countries taking part in the Gulf Cup that the tournament can go ahead safely.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh visited Aden on Friday, where he inspected the facilities for the tournament and held meetings with organisers and security officials.

Saleh paid tribute to “the efforts of the security services and military to ensure that the tournament takes place peacefully and securely”.

Yemeni performers take part in a rehearsal for the official opening ceremony of the Gulf Cup at the 22 May Stadium in the southern city of Aden. (AFP)

Yemeni performers take part in a rehearsal for the official opening ceremony of the Gulf Cup at the 22 May Stadium in the southern city of Aden. (AFP)

Soldier stands guard on army vehicle under billboard portraying flags of Gulf Arab states, Iraq and Yemen participating in 20th Gulf Cup in Aden. (R)

Soldier stands guard on army vehicle under billboard portraying flags of Gulf Arab states, Iraq and Yemen participating in 20th Gulf Cup in Aden. (R)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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