Supporters of a southern separatist movement burn a qat market in the southeastern Yemeni city of Mukalla. Image Credit: REUTERS

Sana’a: Powerful tribes in the Yemen’s south eastern province of Hadramout tightened their grip on three main cities in the oil-rich province, local sources told Gulf News on Saturday.

The province of Hadramout witnessed massive rallies and armed clashes on Friday in response to a call by Hadramout Tribes Alliance to demand investigation into the death of a prominent tribal leader who was shot dead on December 2.

Soud Al Shinini, the spokesman of the tribal alliance, told Gulf News that the alliance’s tribesmen seized control of main cities in the province and on Friday attacked army forces that protect oil companies on Hadramout’s vast plateaus.

“Hadramout’s tribes controlled the cities of Qaten, Seiyun and Tarim. We will continue controlling these cities until all of our demands are met.”

The province capital, Mukalla, is still under control of government forces.

The tribesmen demanded the trial of killers of their slain leader, taking charge of all security checkpoints and oil protection forces in the province, removal of army camps from cities, and employing local residents in oil companies.

“We took charge of Qaten city and the neighbouring villages on Friday morning. The government forces willingly handed over security and government offices to us. We kept some soldiers to safeguard the town’s prison,” said Ghazi Marie, a member of Yafe tribe in Qaten. But a security official in Seiyun denied that the tribes overran the city.

“Security forces are in charge of security in the city in conjunction with local tribesmen,” the official said.

Three killed in south

In the south, a pro-secession movement arranged big rallies in the most provinces to express their support to the Hadramout Alliance’s demands and to call for secession of south. Deadly clashes erupted when some of the protesters attacked police stations and Qat markets owned by northerners.

Three people were killed in two days of violence in the south. A boy and a man were shot dead in the port city of Aden and a young man was killed and another was injured in Mukalla in clashes with sellers of Qat.

Tension in the province of Hadramout has built up since December 2 when Sa’ad Bin Habrish, an influential tribal leader, was killed with two of bodyguards in clashes with army forces in Seiyun district. The news website of the ministry of defence accused the tribal leader and his associates of being Al Qaida suspects which galvanised the leader’s tribe to drum up support from local tribes. The ministry retracted the news story and published an apology to his tribe.

Days after Bin Habrish’s death, powerful tribes got together and issued a joint statement, calling for uprising on December 20 if their demands were not met.

President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi sent a government delegation headed by the province’s governor and deputy minister of interior to defuse tension in the province. The tribal alliance rejected the mediation despite Hadi’s pledges to meet demands if tribes stretched the deadline. Most of the country’s oil is produced in blocks located in Yemen’s largest province.

In the capital, security forces chased a car carrying explosive materials such as TNT, grenades, detonators and rockets fuses, mortar launchers and machine guns.

Official media said that the security forces shot at the car when it did not stop at a security checkpoint. Two men and two women were inside the car. One of the men was killed and another, who was arrested, was receiving treatment at Al Thawra hospital in the capital. The women were also arrested in the chase.

In the province of Al Baydha, a car bomb exploded on Saturday morning, killing a man and injuring another, Saba news agency reported. The car was believed to be owned by a local tribal leader.