Yemeni troops shot dead a gunman and wounded another after they attacked an army checkpoint in the southern Lahj province, residents and a military official said on Sunday.
The army late on Saturday shot dead Abdulmajid Mabrouk and wounded Basil al-Baghdadi, identified as an activist in the separatist Southern Movement, at a checkpoint in Huta, the capital of Lahj, residents said.
A military official confirmed the incident saying that “an army checkpoint in Huta responded after it came under fire,” without giving further details.
The assault in one of the movement’s strongholds in the south comes two days after a newspaper quoted President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi accusing Iran of backing a faction of the Southern Movement seeking to secede by force of arms.
“In the south, there are two movements: a peaceful one and another, which is not,” the pan-Arab Al-Hayat daily quoted him as saying in remarks published on Friday.
“The latter resorts to the use of weapons, receives Iranian assistance and works for secession” of south Yemen, which was a separate state until 1990, Hadi charged.
Some factions of the Southern Movement want autonomy for the south, but more hardline members are pressing for a return to complete independence.
Residents in the poverty-stricken country’s south complain of discrimination by the Sanaa government, citing an inequitable distribution of resources.
After a 1990 union between North and South Yemen, the south broke away in 1994. The move sparked a short-lived civil war that ended with the region being overrun by northern troops.
In 2007, the Southern Movement emerged as a social protest movement of retired officials and soldiers. But it has gradually grown more radical in its demands.