A Yemeni provincial opposition politician thought to be active in a southern separatist movement was gunned down in south Yemen, his party and local residents said on Monday.
The Yemeni Socialist Party said Saeed Ahmed Abdullah bin Daoud was shot dead on Friday in the southern town of Zanjibar in Abyan province, adding on its website that the province was in "an unprecedented state of disorder."
Zanjibar residents said bin Daoud, a member of the Socialist party's leadership committee in the town, was also involved with separatists seeking independence from the central government.
There was no immediate word on the reasons for the killing.
Southern secessionists represent a potent threat for President Ali Abdullah Saleh, already struggling with a Shi'ite revolt in the north and a resurgent al Qaeda network which drew world attention after it said it was behind a failed December 25 attack on a U.S. airliner.
The Yemeni government declared war on al Qaeda last month, intensifying strikes and launching a manhunt in several provinces including in Abyan and other southern areas where separatists are also active.
North and south Yemen united in 1990 under Saleh, who had been president of the north since 1978. The bumpy merger led to a brief 1994 civil war won by the north. Southerners complain of discrimination and say state jobs and resources have gone to the north ever since.
Saleh, an ally of the West in the fight against al Qaeda, has said he is open for dialogue with separatists if they renounce violence, but diplomats see no movement toward this.