Zanjibar – Gunmen have shot dead a provincial opposition politician believed to have been active in a separatist movement in south Yemen, his party and local residents said on Monday. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the killing.
Saeed Ahmed Abdullah bin Daoud’s Yemeni Socialist Party said on its website he was gunned down on Friday in Zanjibar in southern Abyan province.
Zanjibar residents were quoted as saying bin Daoud was a member of his party’s leadership committee in the town.
He was also involved with separatists seeking independence from the central government, according to residents.
Yemen’s embattled president Ali Abdullah Saleh has said secessionists in the south represent a potent threat to the government, which is already dealing with a revolt in the north and a resurgent Al-Qaeda network.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula last month said it provided the explosives used in a failed 25 December attempt to blow up a United States passenger jet during a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.
The Yemeni government declared war on Al-Qaeda last month, intensifying airstrikes strikes against suspected militants and launching a manhunt in several provinces including in Abyan and other southern areas where separatists are also active.
Militants in Yemen and Saudi Arabia in 2009 announced they were forming Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, a loose alliance entitled based in Yemen.
Saleh has said he is willing to hold talks with separatists if they renounce violence. Yemeni authorities on Sunday dismissed a ceasefire offer by northern rebels, insisting they must also agree to end attacks on Saudi Arabia, officials said.
Meanwhile some 20 rebels were killed in northwest Yemen amid renewed fighting between the sides, according to government sources.
The UN refugee agency says 250,000 Yemenis have been displaced by fighting in the region over the past five years.