Yemen protesters demand end to southern fighting

December 31, 2011 15:35

ADEN - Thousands of Yemenis began a 50 km (31 mile) march on Saturday to demand an end to a conflict which has forced nearly 100,000 people to flee southern Yemen, residents said, a day after seven militants were killed in fighting there with the army.

Up to 20,000 activists set out from the port city of Aden towards Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province where the army has been battling Islamist militants suspected of having links with al-Qaida, residents said.

The marchers called on both sides to lay down their arms and demanded the government open the Aden-Zinjibar coastal highway, a key trade route which has remained closed during the conflict.

The militants and the Yemen-based regional wing of al-Qaida - seen by the United States as the group's most dangerous branch - have thrived during the instability caused by nearly a year of protests against the 33-year rule of outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

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