Saturday, October 8, 2011

Blast in south Yemen's Aden kills one, hurts seven

Reuters October 8, 2011

ADEN — An explosion at a police station in Yemen's southern port city of Aden killed a soldier and wounded seven others on Saturday in what security officials described as a "terrorist plot," and police fought with gunmen blocking several main roads.

The clashes arose out of a civil disobedience campaign by Yemeni youths who are part of a popular movement to oust autocratic President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Yemen has been largely paralyzed by nearly nine months of mass protests against Saleh.

Neighbouring oil giant Saudi Arabia and the United States fear that spreading anarchy in Yemen is emboldening al-Qaida's regional wing, one of the global jihadi network's most aggressive branches.

Police said an improvised explosive device detonated outside a station in Aden's al-Qawla district, shattering windows and setting a nearby car ablaze. One of the soldiers on guard was killed. Five others, plus two police officers, were wounded.

"The evidence suggests this was a terrorist attack, we believe extremists were behind it," a security official said.

Aden, which lies east of a strategic shipping strait where some 3 million barrels of oil pass daily, has been in a security grip for months. Its neighbouring province, Abyan, has been plunged into chaos since militants suspected of ties to al-Qaida began seizing cities in the coastal region several months ago.

Tens of thousands of refugees have fled into Aden and neighbouring provinces from the bloodshed and the Yemeni army has struggled to regain territory lost to the militants.

Other suspects for the attack on Saturday could be separatist militants. A long simmering secessionist movement in south Yemen has been on the rise as the Arabian Peninsula country sinks further into turmoil.

Saleh, in power for 33 tears, has been clinging to his position as opposition and ruling party representatives cast about for a formula to see through a transition-of-power deal.

Earlier on Saturday, several streets in Aden were shut down by youths who back the anti-government protests. They dragged burning tires into several streets to stop traffic.

Main traffic arteries were shut for several hours until police began clashing with armed men guarding the blockades and eventually re-opened the streets.

"I couldn't go to work because of all the roadblocks. There was chaos on the streets so I rushed back home for my own safety," said Amgad Thabit, 28, a local businessman.

Many roads in Aden have remained closed for months, crisscrossed with rocks, burned cars and blocks of cement.

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