Large protest in southern Yemen to mark anniversary of start of civil war, demand secession

Tens of thousands of Yemenis rallied across the south to mark the 19th anniversary of the start of the country's brief, but bloody civil war.

In a statement on Saturday, the protesters demanded independence from the north.

Their calls for southern Yemen to once again be an autonomous state have compounded Yemen's many problems as the impoverished Arab nation struggles with al-Qaida militants and political division.

Southerners joined a unified Yemen in 1990. A 1994 attempt by the south to regain independence was crushed in a three-month civil war.

The demonstrators criticized a national dialogue aimed at mapping out the country's future after more than a year of protests led to the ouster of the country's longtime autocratic leader in late 2011.