ADEN — Yemeni security forces shot dead two southern Yemeni activists during a demonstration Thursday in Daleh against presidential elections to be held later this month, witnesses and activists said.
"Southerner wake up, no more elections," chanted the protesters referring to a referendum-like election in which Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi stands as a sole candidate based on a Gulf brokered deal signed by departing President Ali Abdullah Saleh in November.
"Revolt revolt south," they shouted waving the flag of the formerly independent South Yemen, witnesses said.
"Clashes erupted and security forces opened fire killing two activists," said one witness.
The protesters marched towards the headquarters of the electoral committee in the city of Daleh in an attempt to drive its members out of the city of Daleh when security forces opened fire, witnesses said.
Activists from the separatist Southern Movement who say the election fails to meet their aspirations for autonomy or southern independence, confirmed the deaths.
Some factions of the movement have been campaigning for a boycott of the election, while others who follow the Yemen Socialist Party's former leader Ali Salem al-Baidh openly call for preventing the election from taking place at all.
A similar incident took place on February 5 when southern activists overran a police station in Hadramut province and two of them were killed when security forces intervened to evacuate the station.
Two days earlier, armed clashes between supporters and opponents of the presidential election wounded dozens of people in the main southern city of Aden.
Nationwide protests erupted against Saleh's regime in January 2011, triggering months of bloodshed.
Residents in the formerly independent southern region complain of discrimination by the Sanaa government in the distribution of resources since the union between north and south in 1990.
The south broke away again in 1994, sparking a brief civil war that ended with the region overrun by northern troops.
Hadi, himself a southerner, is the sole candidate in the election to succeed the veteran strongman who is standing down after more than three decades in power.
On Tuesday, he launched his campaign for the presidential poll.
The consensus candidate between the former opposition, which now leads a national unity government, and Saleh's party, the General People's Congress, had said the poll represented a "first step towards a secured future."
Saleh has been in New York since late last month to receive medical treatment for wounds suffered in a June bombing at the presidential palace.
US officials have said he will not return to Yemen until after the election but state news agency Saba reported on Tuesday that Saleh had told visitors he would "participate" in the elections scheduled to take place on February 21.