Injured seven demonstrators killed in Al-Dhale’ blast [Archives:2008/1171/Local News]

July 10 2008

By: Ahmed Harmal
For the Yemen Times

Al-DHALE', July 7) Seven people were injured by a grenade that exploded in the main street of Al-Dhale' city last Monday during a former military pensioners' demonstration.

A security source in Al-Dhale' governorate said they have arrested a person who may have thrown the bomb into the crowd of demonstrators but did not reveal the suspect's identity.

Eyewitnesses said that the explosion targeted a group including former military personnel that gathered to demonstrate and coincided with the arrival of central security vehicles that came to disperse the gathering. Monday's activities in Al-Dhale' are the latest developments in a string of incidents besetting the southern governates.

This is the second time – and the same place – in Al-Dhale' that demonstrators were injured. In 2007, eight peopled were injured by explosion during a similar demonstration by the same organization “Military Pensioners' Association

On the eve of the demonstration, Al-Dhale' city witnessed an extensive security deployment that set checkpoints at the city's entrances and prevented people coming from the governorate's other districts to participate.

Organizers aimed to hold their demonstration last Sunday, which was the first anniversary of their unified protest held in Aden last July. During that protest, the military pensioners wore their old military uniforms for the first time since they were expelled from the army in 1994.

After the civil war of 1994, these men deserted the military. When the president declared amnesty for them, the men came back and asked to join the military again but weren't allowed to rejoin.

In August 2007, the Military Pensioners' Association organized another protest that coincided with the anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The date was selected by the organizers of the protest to attract the attention of the Arab and international public. During the protest activity, Al-Nubah (head of ex-military soldier's group) spoke for the first time about the issue of south Yemen and demanded the intervention of the Arab League and the United Nations to put an end to the suffering in south Yemen.

The pensioners' activities increased alongside of their demands. At first, they began asking for their right to return to their military positions with an increase in salary.

Then the group started making political demands. In a rally held in Al-Dhale' alongside representatives from the other southern governorates last year, the pensioner associations demanded a part of “the power and public wealth.”

As protests continued throughout the south, other groups such as the Jobless Youth Association, the Revolution Warriors and the Martyrs' Families Association appeared on the scene and organized demonstrations where they claimed southern Yemen's right to self-determination.

In March, participants began rioting after the end of an organized rally in Al-Sumood Stadium in Al-Dhale'. Rioters burned Yemen's flag of and tore down posters of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. They also marched to the former dividing line that separated the two parts of Yemen before the unification and set up signs saying that they wanted secession.

These activities led the government to take procedures against these activities. During March 29 and 30, young people wishing to be recruited for the army began demonstrations in Al-Dhale' that soon turned into riots. In response, the government increased military deployments around the governorate that are still in place now. Hundreds of people were arrested in Al-Dhale', Aden, Lahj and Abyan. Some of the arrested protesters are still in prison until now. Dozens of people died and hundreds were injured in the riots.