Residents of the port of Aden staged a general strike on Saturday after a call by southern separatists in protest at the start of a national dialogue aimed at ending Yemen’s political crisis.
Businesses, offices and public services all shut down for six hours between 0300 and 0900 GMT after a call by a radical faction led by the exiled former president of South Yemen, Ali Salem al-Baid, an AFP correspondent said.
His movement wants full independence for the south — an independent state until 1990 — and is boycotting the talks that are to start on Monday.
Security forces deployed throughout the port city, but no serious incidents were reported between police and southern activists who closed main roads using stone blocks.
Some gunshots were heard in the Mansura district, a hotbed of southern separatism, but there were no reports of anyone hit, both police and the secessionists said.
Activists reported that several towns in Yemen’s southeastern province of Hadramawt also staged similar general strikes.
Since February 21, the separatists have been organising acts of civil disobedience every Wednesday and Saturday in protest at the deaths of some of their members in clashes with security forces.
Two people were shot dead on Wednesday when police and separatists clashed in Aden.
The UN-backed national dialogue is aimed at reconciling the impoverished Arabian Peninsula nation’s divisive political players.
The tough talks, scheduled to run six months, bring together 565 representatives of political groups — from southern secessionists to Zaidi Shiite rebels in the north — in addition to civil society representatives.
They aim to draft a new constitution and prepare for general elections in February 2014 after a two-year transition led by President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.