Yemen Ministry Denies Prisoners Escape After Bomb Blast

Yemen's interior ministry on Thursday denied a police report that around 30 recently arrested prisoners had made a run for it after a bomb exploded outside a jail in the south of the country.

"Information about prisoners fleeing is completely false," the ministry said in a statement on an earlier police report that sympathizers of a southern secessionist movement had escaped from outside prison.

Police had said a dispute broke out at a police post next to the jail between policemen and sympathizers of the breakaway movement arrested for taking part in a protest in Daleh, 170 miles from Sanaa.

The detained protesters hurled a bomb, according to police, who said two policemen and three demonstrators were wounded. They said about 30 of those just arrested managed to flee during the mayhem.

Members of the movement for the independence of south Yemen told AFP the bomb was thrown by police, but the ministry statement said one of 20 arrested demonstrators detonated a bomb he had been hiding, wounding six people.

Elsewhere on Thursday, police shot dead one protester and wounded five others in the nearby city of Radfan as they opened fire to disperse a demonstration led by southern separatists, according to the secessionists.

Witnesses said the demonstrators, some of whom were armed, carried flags of the former South Yemen.

Pro-independence protests have multiplied in the south amid a worsening economic situation in Yemen and charges of discrimination in favor of northerners.

On March 27, policemen opened fire in Daleh on the funeral procession for a Southern Movement member killed by police gunfire a week earlier, wounding 28 mourners, the movement said.

The man was to have been buried a week before but authorities prevented his body from being released from hospital, as they wanted the burial to take place at night rather than daylight to avoid protests.

South Yemen was independent from 1967 until 1990 when it united with the north. The south seceded in 1994, sparking a short-lived conflict that ended when the south was overrun by northern troops.

In a message to Arab leaders who held a summit in Libya last week, former southern president Ali Salam al Baid called for outside intervention "to stop the massacre of our people."

"We ask for the formation of a commission of inquiry into the situation in occupied southern Yemen," he said.