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Intense clashes have hit south Yemen as tensions between the government forces and separatists have escalated. No reliable figures on the casualties are available as the government restricts freedom of journalists in the south and controls much of the flow of information. However, the government acknowledged that at least five people were killed and dozens wounded in gun-battles and shelling in the flashpoint province of Al Dalea after separatists raised secessionist flags over their homes and protested in the street.

 

The clashes erupted after the government forces tried to break a general strike in the south.

 

In other clashes in the south, there were reportedly a number of army casualties when seperatist fighters launched a rocket-propelled grenade against an army convoy.

 

The clashes were followed by calls by prominent Yemeni tribal leader, Sheikh Hamid al Ahmar, for the next Yemeni president to be from the south.

 

June 7 – 14, 2010

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk

 

The clashes between government forces and southern separatists are the most serious the country has faced in recent years. There has been a gradual build-up in the intensity of demonstrations and the occasional localized riots, and the fighting that has been reported represents a leap jump in both the type and intensity of the fighting.

 

The type of the fighting is in itself serious as it shows that the separatists are now taking a more militant and organized stance against the government forces, rather than restrict their opposition to demonstrations. This may also reflect a greater involvement for Al Qaeda, which the government is battling all over Yemen. Al Qaeda and the separatists, although not necessarily with a common ideology, appear to have been brought together to fight a common enemy.

 

The increasing risk of separation has reached such a high level that prompted highly regarded and influential tribal leader from the north, Sheikh al Ahmar, to call for the next president to be from the south. This is especially serious given that he comes from the north’s most powerful tribe and has himself been pitched as a likely successor to the current president. Although al Ahmar is known to be a supporter of integrating the southerners into the system, his call for a president from the south reflects the seriousness of where the situation has reached.