ADEN — Thousands of Yemenis demonstrated on Thursday against an army “blockade” of the southern city of Loder, where clashes with troops killed dozens last month, a member of the Southern Movement said.
“Thousands arrived since Wednesday evening in the city of Loder to participate in the protest aimed at lifting the army blockade imposed by Yemeni occupation forces since August,” said Aydarus Haqis, a leader of the movement calling for self-rule that called the demonstration.
Armed militants were deployed in the city’s streets to prevent Yemeni forces from hampering the protest, tribal and local sources said.
The protesters were allowed to enter the city on foot after security inspections.
No clashes were reported.
They raised banners with pictures of the exiled south Yemeni leader, Ali Salem al-Baid.
“No to the blockade on Loder” and “no to terrorism in Abyan,” some read.
The army has been heavily deployed in Loder since fierce August clashes between troops and suspected Al-Qaeda militants, controlling movement into and out of the city and imposing tighter security measures on residents.
At least 33 were killed in the fighting, including 19 militants, 11 soldiers and three civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official and medical sources.
The defence ministry, referring to the Southern Movement, said “outlaw separatist elements” collaborated with Al-Qaeda in the clashes.
The blockade is aimed against the Southern Movement militants, a member charged on Thursday.
The group had claimed that it was their supporters who were targeted and denied any link to Al-Qaeda.
At the end of the demonstration, the movement issued a statement condemning “all forms of terrorism and extremism.”
It also stressed its “total support of the international community in its war on terror” and called for an investigation to uncover the “ties between Yemen’s regime and leaders in the Al-Qaeda network.”
Since the August clashes, Yemen’s security services have arrested 14 alleged Al-Qaeda members in Loder, including a leader named as Salah al-Dabani.
South Yemen, where many residents complain of discrimination by the Sanaa government in the allocation of resources, is the scene of frequent unrest.
The region was independent from 1967 until 1990 when it united with the north. It launched an abortive secession bid in 1994.