SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Artillery shells hit a funeral tent Friday in a southern Yemeni city killing 13 people, following a day of clashes between the government and local gunmen, according to a security official and a witness.
Four shells landed near mourners paying condolences to the family of a man killed in Thursday's fighting in Dali, in which security forces battled fighters affiliated with southern Yemeni regional movement, said the official and local political leader Adnan Abdo, who says he was at the site of the attack.
The deaths may inflame regional sentiment in southern Yemen, where a strong movement already demands greater autonomy from the north after what it describes as two decades of marginalization and discrimination. South Yemen was an independent state until unification in 1990.
Thursday's clashes were on the sidelines of protests demanding self-rule for the south. The president formed a committee to investigate the deaths today.
The official said that authorities are also investigating the shelling. He spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Southern grievances were a source of contention last week in Yemen's National Dialogue, an ongoing conference bringing together political representatives from across the country that aims to draw up blueprints for a new constitution under a transition plan backed by U.S. and Gulf countries in the wake of the country's 2011 uprising.
Last week's arguments centered around two main proposals: one envisions Yemen being divided into two regions, and another sees the country divided into six. Both plans are seen as trying to forestall demands for southern secession.
Separately, a U.S. drone strike killed one suspected al-Qaida militant in another southern city and injured another, a security official said.
The two suspects were driving their vehicle in the ancient southern city of Shibam when the drone hit it, he said.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the group's branch in Yemen, is considered by Washington as the network's most dangerous offshoot. The group's militants seized large swath of lands in the southern part of the country before the military launched a major offensive in the summer last year driving many of them out.
The group still carries out deadly attacks. Earlier this month, militants stormed Defense Ministry headquarters leaving 56 dead, including foreigners.
Washington does not normally comment on its drone program.