Yemen delays U.N. trip to south, citing unrest

The move came as gunmen in the capital killed a senior intelligence officer in an attack blamed on al-Qaeda

Published: Updated:

Yemeni authorities have postponed a trip by a U.N. humanitarian mission to the restive southern city of Daleh for security reasons, officials said on Thursday.

The move came as gunmen in the capital killed a senior intelligence officer in an attack blamed on al-Qaeda.

The 10-strong U.N. delegation waiting in the main southern city of Aden since Sunday was asked to postpone its mission for another week.

Its trip is aimed at assessing the humanitarian situation in Daleh where civilians have been caught up in fighting between the army and separatists.

“We received a call from a member of the governmental committee” charged with facilitating the delegation's access to Daleh “informing us that the security situation there now does not allow us to enter,” said George Abu Zuluf, representing the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Daleh province is a stronghold of separatists who demand the secession of the formerly independent South Yemen and who have rejected plans announced last month for the current state to be replaced by a six-region federation.

The U.N. delegation urges Sanaa to “quickly secure access to the province... as any delay would affect civilians” caught up in the violence, Abu Zuluf said.

“There are over 45,000 civilians in 20 towns there in desperate need of humanitarian assistance,” he said.

The UN has urged both separatists and the 33rd Armoured Brigade in Daleh to spare civilians and not launch attacks from populated areas, Abu Zuluf said.

Last month, 13 people, including seven soldiers and three separatists, were killed in a firefight in the provincial capital of the same name.

South Yemen was independent between the end of British colonial rule in 1967 and its union with the north in 1990.

In Sanaa, meanwhile, a security official told AFP the intelligence officer was gunned down in an attack bearing the hallmarks of al-Qaeda.

“Colonel Abdulmalik al-Othari was shot dead as he was leaving his home near the airport,” the official told AFP.

The attackers, “probably al-Qaeda” militants, fled on their motorbike, he added.

Members of the security and intelligence services often come under attack in Yemen which is home to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group most often blamed by the authorities for such killings.