Yemen holds separatists in south, U.N. urges aid

Source: Reuters

* Sixteen suspected separatists arrested in south * U.N. agency calls for urgent aid for north Yemen. * Yemen to block entry of African refugees (Adds Yemen to stop entry of African refugees, paragraphs 6-8) By Mohamed Sudam SANAA, Feb 20 (Reuters) – Government forces have arrested 16 people on suspicion of separatist activity in southern Yemen, security sources said on Saturday. Yemen, the poorest Arab country, is battling secessionists in the south, a Shi’ite insurgency in the north and a resurgent al Qaeda, whose local arm claimed responsibility for a failed Dec. 25 bomb attempt on a U.S. plane approaching Detroit. Those arrested were accused of taking part in unauthorised protests and jeopardising security and unity in the Arabian Peninsula country, the sources said. Some group members were carrying anti-government leaflets and banners, and others had attacked security forces with stones, they said. Further details were not available about the arrests, which took place in three provinces late on Friday. People in the south, home to most of Yemen’s oil facilities, have long complained that northerners have abused a 1990 agreement which united the long-divided country to seize their resources and discriminate against them. Yemen, which already hosts 170,000 African refugees, wants to block the flow of asylum seekers across the Gulf of Aden — which separates it from Somalia — because of security concerns, the Interior Ministry said on its website on Saturday. The move is part of Yemen’s efforts to “prevent terrorist elements from the Horn of Africa from infiltrating its territory, especially after (Somalia’s Islamist militant) al Shabaab … organisation said it intends to support al Qaeda elements in Yemen”, it said. [ID:nLDE60002X] The refugees, many of them fleeing political turmoil in Somalia, hope to find jobs in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, or in other parts of the Middle East. U.N. CALLS FOR AID FOR NORTH Separately, the United Nations Development Programme called for urgent aid for the 250,000 people displaced by the conflict in Yemen’s north, which has flared on and off since 2004. The northern rebels and the government agreed last week to a truce to end the war, but previous ceasefires have not held. UNDP administrator Helen Clark expressed hope in a statement that “the international community would react positively to the ceasefire by providing urgently needed resources in response to the humanitarian needs caused by the conflict and to allow early recovery from the conflict to begin”. International donors met in London last month to discuss how to help Yemen tackle al Qaeda after Yemeni-based militants said they were behind the failed Christmas Day plane bombing. Pledging broad support for Yemen, they also pressed for an end to the conflict in the north to make it easier for billions of dollars of previously promised foreign aid to be disbursed. Of Yemen’s population of 23 million, more than 40 percent live on less than $2 a day. In the south, two policemen were wounded in an attack by gunmen in the town of Dalea on Saturday, residents said. On Friday, security sources said separatists killed a senior police official in an ambush in southern Yemen. Another person died and three were injured in the shooting. (Additional reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Sanaa and Mohammed Mushashef in Aden; writing by Tamara Walid and Firouz Sedarat; editing by Mark Trevelyan)
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