Agence France Presse is reporting that at least 16 people were killed today and 30 injured by shelling and gunfire in Zinjibar on the southern coast of Yemen. Earlier reports (including theofficial news agency and the BBC put the death toll at eight). AFP says the dead include six policemen.
This is clearly the most serious outbreak of violence since the revival of separatist agitation in the south.
The clashes erupted after supporters of separatist Tariq al-Fadhli incited violence during a rally called for by the Southern Movement to be held in Zinjibar, Ahmad al-Maisari, the governor of Abyan said.
“We allowed people to gather for peaceful protest but supporters of Tariq al-Fadhli marched towards the Central Security prison in the city and fired RPGs and armors in an attempt to release some prisoners over previous riots by force,” said al-Maisari.
Security authorities imposed a curfew in the city as the clashes continued during the afternoon, witnesses said.
Security forces reportedly exchanged fire with guards of the house of Sheikh al-Fadhli in an attempt to raid the house to arrest al-Fadhli.
Zinjibar was once the capital of the Fadhli Sultanate. Tariq al-Fadli (or Fadhli) recently nominated himself as leader of the separatists. In the early 1990s he led armed Islamist rebels in the south but later changed sides and became a supporter of President Salih. This year he switched sides again.
Posted by Brian Whitaker, 23 July 2009