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01 Oct 2009 11:10
Yemen accused a leading figure among separatists in the south on Thursday of being behind an assassination attempt against a senior security official this week.
Nasser Mansour Hadi, head of Yemen’s political security body in the south and brother of the vice president, survived an apparent assassination attempt on Wednesday when gunmen opened fire on his motorcade in the town of Zinjibar. Witnesses said two members of his security detail were wounded.
The incident came amid a day of widespread protests in southern provinces led by the opposition Southern Movement that wants to reestablish a south Yemeni state that unified with its northern neighbour in 1990 and failed to secede in a 1994 war.
“[Hadi] survived a treacherous assassination attempt on the part of subversive elements outside the Constitution, system and law belonging to Tarek al-Fadhli,” an Interior Ministry source said in a statement.
“The perpetrators will not escape punishment and security agencies are now hunting them so they face justice.”
Fadhli is a tribal leader who switched allegiance to the southerners in 2008.
Separatists and security forces exchanged fire on Monday at the house of a relative of Fadhli in Zinjibar.
War in north
In comments to pro-south website Aden News, Fadhli denied any involvement and accused the authorities of staging the attack to sow discord among southern opposition.
He said Hadi, a southerner, was respected in the south, where most of Yemen’s oil facilities are located.
“Hadi is a figure we have a lot of appreciation for and we could never direct our arms at sons of the south under any circumstances,” the site quoted Fadhli as saying.
The latest flare-up of violence coincides with a war in Yemen’s far north since early August between the army and insurgents of the Zaydi Shi’ite sect, who also complain of political and economic marginalisation by the government of veteran president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Zaydis make up about a third of Yemen’s population of about 23-million people, mainly Sunni Muslims.
The United States and Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil exporter which adheres to a strict form of Sunni Islam, fear opposition to Saleh’s rule in the north and south could play into the hands of al-Qaeda, which could exploit instability to carry out attacks.
The militant group has staged a comeback with attacks on government and foreign targets in Yemen over the past two years.
Former president of the south Yemeni republic Ali Salem al-Beidh, in exile in Germany, issued a statement after Wednesday’s protests saying southerners inside and outside Yemen must continue the struggle against “occupation”.
“I say this is the moment of truth.
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