World Bulletin/News Desk
A Yemeni southern secessionist leader who was arrested upon arrival in Aden from Britain on Wednesday said on Saturday he had been released by the security forces.
Ahmed Abdullah al-Hassani had been living abroad but Yemeni media reported last week that he was planning to return to meet other leaders of the southern secessionist movement in Aden, the capital of the former state of South Yemen.
He was then seized by a group of armed men who boarded the plane to arrest him, other separatist politicians said.
He told Reuters he had been released late on Saturday evening.
"The arrest did not affect our determination to struggle for the freedom and independence of the south," Hassani told Reuters after his release.
"We will meet with southern leaders to discuss prospects for the next stage with the aim of moving forward with the objective of restoring the southern state," he added.
North and south Yemen unified in 1990 when the collapse of the Soviet Union undermined the commmunist south's economy, but political harmony was short lived and an attempted southern secession in 1994 prompted a brief civil war, won by the north.
Southern Yemenis have since complained of discrimination and an unequal division of national resources, and secessionist sentiment, aiming to build a socialist state, was spurred by the mood of popular protest that swept the Arab world last spring.
Former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled in north Yemen since 1978, was forced from power early this year after a year-long popular uprising that caused splits in the military and divided the country's powerful tribes.
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The building, dating from the early 1960s and including a shopping centre and clothing workshops, had been evacuated, but firefighters were battling the blaze inside and it was not immediately clear if there were casualties.
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