ADEN, (AFP) – Yemen sent reinforcements to its southern province of Lahij on Saturday as hundreds of people protested against the killing of a militant in clashes with the army, witnesses and officials said.
Dozens of troop carriers, tanks and other armoured vehicles were en route to Habilayn in Lahij province from Taez province farther north, witnesses told AFP.
Hundreds of supporters of the Southern Movement, whose members want either independence or increased autonomy, took to the streets of Habilayn on Saturday in protest at the killing of Abbas Tanbaj, a wanted member of the group.
On Thursday, militants shot dead two soldiers after they killed Tanbaj.
A security official in Habilayn said that a soldier was found dead late on Friday, raising the military’s death toll from the clashes with southern militants since Thursday to five – four soldiers and an officer.
Local officials and tribal dignitaries have been locked in negotiations with the military in an attempt to convince it to withdraw from the restive town, a tribal source told AFP.
But a security official said the authorities were determined to restore “security and order” in Habilayn and nearby towns, raising fears of renewed fighting.
The Southern Movement generally holds protests on Thursdays to demand the release of detained activists.
South Yemen, where many residents complain of discrimination in the distribution of resources on the part of the Sanaa government, was independent from 1967 until it joined with the north in 1990.
The region seceded in 1994, sparking a brief civil war that ended with it being overrun by northern troops.