Yemeni authorities declared a state of emergency in a southern provincial capital, citing the possibility of separatist attacks two days after a police officer was shot dead in an ambush in a nearby province.
The Yemeni government said separatists killed the officer in south Yemen, bringing to four the number of people killed in attacks on southern security men in a week as authorities also mounted sweeps targeting separatists.
A government official said the state of emergency in the city of Dalea was "to guard against acts of violence that outlaws are intent on carrying out in the city.”
The declaration of the state of emergency prompted widespread riots and demonstrations across the south. Clashes have continued in past weeks between southern residents and government forces in Dalea, Lahj and Aden. Hundreds of arrests were made and businesses owned by northern Yemenis burned down, forcing their owners to flee north.
People in south Yemen, home to most Yemeni oil facilities, complain that northerners have abused a 1990 agreement uniting the country to grab resources and discriminate against them.
There were reports by the Yemeni Defense Ministry's online newspaper that a militia leader behind the latest attacks is a separatist slain officer had previously received threats from members of the militia, led by a separatist leader formerly loyal to the government, but gave no further details.
February 27, 2010
Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk
The situation in the southern provinces of Yemen appears to be deteriorating rapidly, with wide-spread support growing for the separatist movement. Even as acknowledged by Yemeni government sources, tribal leaders are switching sides and are openly supporting the separatist movement.
The government seems to be focused on addressing the situation from a security perspective. This appears to be failing as the government now takes firmer action by declaring a state of emergency, prompting widespread riots.
Support for secession of the south is growing and without drastic and quick action, including economic and political reform, the move towards secession seems unstoppable. This economic and political reform can only be delivered by the support of foreign donors as the central government lacks the resources to undertake any effective action that would be seen by leaders of the separatist movement as sufficient.
Secession of the south could be disastrous for the north as much of the oil and gas resources are in the south. This would effectively leave north Yemen as a collapsed state, posing significant threats to the neighbouring GCC states.