Yemen flag protester shot dead

A demonstrator was shot dead by security forces in Yemen yesterday as he tried to remove a Yemeni flag from a government building and hoist a southern flag in its place during a separatist protest. The shooting, in Radfan (Lahej province), is reported by Reuters and DPA.

Meanwhile, more details have emerged about the killing of prominent separatist (and arms supplier) Ali Saleh al-Yafei. The day before government forces attacked his home, he had publicly hanged and burned an effigy of President Salih at a demonstration. Mareb Press and al-Ishtiraki have some photographs. 

Al-Ishtiraki (in Arabic) says security forces surrounded al-Yafei's house, firing at it with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades and tear gas. Some of them reportedly opened fire from the top of a minaret nearby.

Contrary to earlier reports, al-Ishtiraki says al-Yafei's wife and daughter were not killed but were seriously injured, though his brother and seven-year-old granddaughter died in the gunfight.

Government sources have sought to implicate al-Yafei with al-Qaeda (which may or may not be true), though he was a close associate of Tariq al-Fadhli, the ex-jihadist turned separatist leader.

Fadhli himself has been besieged at his home for three days by "a large contingent" of security forces, according to Reuters. It seems they may be trying to starve him out.

Fadhli was involved in a similar siege in the early 1990s when the southern authorities sent their Third Armoured Brigade to arrest him. The attempt failed and Fadhli escaped.

In the capital, Sana'a, security forces have arrested 11 mensaid to be "suspected of links to al-Qaeda". The father of one of the suspects was reportedly shot dead after opening fire. 

Though the men may well have been connected to al-Qaeda it is difficult to be sure because of the government's propensity to tar any subversive elements with the al-Qaeda label. These reports would be a lot more convincing if the authorities issued a "most wanted" list of the suspects they are seeking (as the Saudis did a few years back).

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 5 March 2010.