Thousands of Separatists Protest in Yemen's South

SAN'A, Yemen -- Thousands of separatists have marched through two cities in southern Yemen to demand authorities release a leader of the southern secessionist movement.

South Yemen was once a separate country, and simmering tensions there have compounded Yemen's troubles as it struggles with a resurgent al-Qaida offshoot.

A spokesman for the southern movement, Abdu al-Maatari, says around 5,000 protesters set fire to tires and blocked streets in the city of al-Dhale on Wednesday before security forces cleared the crowds.

A day earlier, authorities arrested 70-year-old Hassan Bamoum, leader of the southerners' main faction, The Supreme Council for the Peaceful Southern Movement. The reason for his arrest was not clear.

A second protest drew 3,000 demonstrators in the nearby city of Radfan