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Southern Grievances.

The separatist Southern Movement (SM) complains of economic, political and cultural oppression by the north, with much of the south and east being beyond government control. The flag of rebellion is painted on the stocks of guns. The SM calls this land South Arabia, and villagers predict s major insurgency.

In Yafei', a restive tribal area in the south, separatist leader Zahra Saleh Abdullah says: "We are all ready to fight... Yemen is not our country. South Arabia is our country". Many Yemeni soldiers will not wear their uniforms outside the southern port city of Aden for fear of being killed. Officials have been attacked after trying to raise the Yemeni flag over state offices in the south.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh crushed an uprising by the socialist-controlled south in 1994, four years after North and South Yemen were merged. Tensions have since increased at this intersection of the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. The possibility of renewed conflict now comes as the government is contending with a shaky peace with the Houthi rebels in the north-west and security threats from AQAP in the south and east.

SM leaders say San'a' has extracted petroleum from the south, confiscated southern lands and systematically discriminated against the locals when it came to government and military jobs. The SM contends that the government has starved southern towns of public money for schools, hospitals and road maintenance.

It was reported on June 4 that the authorities had detained several foreigners, including Americans, Britons and an Australian woman, in connection with a probe into increased AQAP activities. The arrests were made after foreign intelligence agencies provided lists of names of people they wanted detained or put under surveillance. The group also included Frenchmen, Africans and Asians.

Some detained foreigners were said to be linked to Abdul-Muttaleb. US investigators say Abdul-Mutalleb had told them he was trained by AQAP. The detained Australian woman, 30-year-old Shyloh Giddins, moved to Yemen with her two children in 2006 after converting to Islam. She was arrested on May 15. According to Australian government documents, Giddins' Australian passport was cancelled in April because the intelligence service there believed she was a security threat. After arriving in Yemen, she studied Arabic and Islam and taught English in private institutes and on June 3 urged San'a' to fly her children home. The youngsters were locked in their apartment. Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said San'a' should return the children's passports and let them go home.

The Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily al-Hayat reported that San'a' had detained around 50 foreigners accused of links to AQAP after stepping up monitoring of Arabic language schools. US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley on June 8 said the number of Americans in Yemeni custody varied and could be as high as 20 at any given time. Al-Hayat said US, British, French and Malaysian nationals were among the foreigners detained since the failed Dec. 25, 2009 attempt to bomb the Detroit-bound plane.

Members of the Shabwan tribe in the petroleum-rich Ma'reb province - one of AQAP's strongholds - in late May bombed and ruptured a crude oil pipeline, in the second such attack in a week. The Shabwans were on June 12 reported to have set off explosives they attached to the pipeline - which runs through their land from the Safer oilfields (see omt24YemenGlobalProspJun14-10).

The same tribe attacked the pipeline, gasoline stations, power lines and government buildings on May 25 to avenge the death of kinsman Shaikh Jaber Ali al-Shabwani, a top provincial official, in a botched air raid on AQAP in Ma'reb. Shabwani and four of his bodyguards were killed in the YAF air-strike, which targeted a wanted AQAP man who was wounded but escaped. The tribesmen later agreed to a truce with the government, pending an investigation into Shabwani's death.

Yemen's High Security Council said President Saleh had ordered the formation of a commission of inquiry into the events in Ma'reb. The oil-rich South Yemeni province of Hadhramut is the ancestral homeland of al-Qaeda Central (AQC) leader Usama bin Laden and has been the scene of several attacks claimed by the group targeting foreign missions, tourist sites and oil installations.
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Publication:APS Diplomat News Service
Geographic Code:7YEME
Date:Jun 14, 2010
Words:693
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