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South strikes in protest at government 'oppression'

Shops were shut and transport ground to a halt in much of southern Yemen on Sunday as residents staged a general strike in protest at what they termed government oppression and censorship of a daily newspaper.

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AFP - Residents of cities in southern Yemen on Sunday staged a general strike to protest what they termed government oppression as well as action taken against a daily newspaper, activists and witnesses said.

The strike was almost total in the southern provinces of Dhale, Lahaj, Shabwa and Abyan as all shops were shut and transportation ground to a halt, witnesses told AFP.

Abdo al-Maatari, one of the leaders of the separatist movement in the south, said the half-day protest was against "central government oppression" and would be peaceful.

"This protest confirms that we are adopting civilised and peaceful means with regards to the issue of the south. It is a practical response to those who tried to link our movement with Al-Qaeda," he told AFP.

The council of the so-called "Peaceful Revolution of the South" said in a website statement that the strike was in response to "repeated central government attacks." It said the strike would continue until midday Sunday.

South Yemen was an independent state from the time of Britain's pullout in 1967 until the country was united in 1990. The south seceded in 1994, sparking a short-lived civil war that ended with the region overrun by northern troops.

Separatists who want to end the north-south union are demanding independence in response to what they say is discrimination by northerners and a lack of financial aid.

Yemen police last week arrested the owner and editor of Al-Ayyam newspaper, the main southern daily, following deadly clashes between police and guards.

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