The flag of former South Yemen is seen attached to a billboard during a rally in Yemen's southern port city of Aden October 14, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
Thousands of southern Yemenis turned out in Aden Friday to demand independence for their once sovereign region, as rebels from the north press to expand their control over more of the impoverished country.
Yemen continues to reel under the impact of the expansion by Shiite rebels, after they overran the capital last month and seized a major port unopposed, before clashing with Sunni tribes and Al-Qaeda south of Sanaa.
The demonstrators gathered in Aden's Parade Square to mark a "Day of Anger" called by the Supreme Council of the Revolutionary Peaceful Movement for the Liberation and Independence of the South, a new coalition of two major separatist groups.
Waving flags of the former South Yemen, they chanted "we demand freedom and independence" and "independence or death."
On October 14, tens of thousands protested in central Aden's Al-Arood Square, setting up a tent camp and promising an indefinite sit-in to press for independence.
The Supreme Council has urged southerners working for the government, especially those in the armed forces and police, to abandon their jobs and join the protests.
Many protesters go to work during the day and return in the afternoon to the camp, which has some 120 tents, activists said.
The south was independent between the end of British colonial rule in 1967 and union with the north in 1990.
A secession attempt four years later sparked a brief but bloody civil war that ended with northern forces occupying the region.
The separatists, as well as Huthi Shiites, rejected plans unveiled in February for Yemen to become a six-region federation, including two for the south.
The Supreme Council is led by exiled former South Yemen president Ali Salem al-Baid and Hassan Baum, who heads the hardline wing of the Southern Movement.
However, around 20 other factions have formed a separate coalition -- the National Council for the Salvation of the South -- under the leadership of Mohammed Ali Ahmed, the former South Yemen interior minister.