Sanaa (ANTARA News/Reuters) – Suspected southern separatists ambushed and killed two Yemeni police officers on a routine patrol on Sunday, punctuating a deal for calm in the flashpoint city of Dalea, provincial officials and state media said.
Separatists had sealed a deal two days earlier to end a weeks-long government siege of the city, with the government pledging to remove roadblocks and the separatists agreeing to pull gunmen out of strategic points, the officials said.
Yemen, neighbour to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, has been an increased Western security concern since a Yemen-based regional al Qaeda arm claimed responsibility for a failed December attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound plane.
Yemen`s Western allies and Saudi Arabia fear a resurgent al Qaeda wing could exploit unrest to use Yemen as a base for destabilising attacks in the region and beyond. They want the government to resolve internal conflict and consolidate power.
But a separatist movement in the south has taken on steam in recent months, with deaths on both sides, even as a separate civil war with Shi`ite rebels subsides in a northern corner of the Arabian peninsula state.
Tensions have escalated in recent weeks in Dalea, with government forces who have surrounded the city shelling separatist positions in town earlier this month and engaging in gunbattles with secessionists.
After Sunday`s ambush, in which suspected separatists torched a military vehicle after shooting dead the two police officers inside, security forces combed the city for the perpetrators. There was no immediate word on any arrests.
North and South Yemen formally united in 1990 but many in the south, where most of impoverished Yemen`s oil facilities are located, complain northerners have used unification to seize their resources and discriminate against them. (Uu.B002/P003)