South Yemen paralyzed in protest over tribal chief death

Several schools and public offices were closed and shops shuttered following a second day of protest

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Several cities in south Yemen were virtually paralyzed Saturday as an armed clash between southern militants and security forces wounded six people, witnesses and police said.

Schools and public offices were closed and shops shuttered on the second day of a protest movement over the killing of a tribal chief in a confrontation with the army.

Four Southern Movement militants and two policemen were wounded in an armed clash in Ataq, capital of Shabwa province, police said.

Security sources said the militants seized a rapid intervention force vehicle and police had to repel gunmen who briefly took over a telecommunications center.

On Friday, a child and a southern militant were killed in the main southern city of Aden and in Mukalla, in southeast Yemen, medics and witnesses said.

A week of protests has been launched over the death of local tribal chief Said Ben Habriche, who was to be buried on Saturday.

He was among six tribesmen killed on Dec. 2 in fighting which erupted when his bodyguards refused to hand over their weapons to soldiers at a checkpoint. Two soldiers also died.

His funeral was due to take place Saturday in Mukalla where the Southern Movement said its supporters had taken over the city’s police station “without clashes”.

Most residents of Mukalla, where tension was running high, were staying indoors and traffic was at a virtual standstill because of barricades of rocks and burning tyres set up by militants on main roads, witnesses said.

Protest organizers are pressing authorities to hand over the suspect who killed Ben Habriche, and to provide jobs for southerners in the police force, army and oil sector.

Following the end of British colonial rule in 1967, southern Yemen was independent until union with the north in 1990.

This was followed by a secession attempt in 1994 that sparked a brief but bloody civil war.

The conflict ended with an occupation of the south by northern forces that laid the ground for many of the disputes over land and jobs that still fan southern resentment.

Southern grievances are the main issue obstructing Yemen’s national dialogue aimed at sealing a reconciliation following a 2011 revolt which led to the ouster of long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

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