Yemeni separatist leader Tarek al-Fadhli and his sons wave to supporters during an anti-government rally (Photo: Reuters)
Yemeni militiamen backing the government in the south have besieged the residence of a tribal chief suspected of links to Al-Qaeda upon his return to the region, a local chief said on Tuesday.
Gunmen from the local Popular Resistance Committees have been surrounding since late Monday the house of warlord Tarek al-Fadhli, who has fought in Afghanistan, upon his return to the southern city of Zinjibar, said Hussein al-Waheshi.
The militiamen have given Fadhli 24 hours to turn himself in to police to avert having his residence stormed by gunmen, he said.
The local security committee met on Tuesday and "agreed that Fadhli should surrender to the public prosecutor who had issued an arrest warrant last month over threats to kill leaders of the (southern) Socialist Party," he said.
"The ultimatum ends this evening. If he does not surrender, we will be obliged to storm his house and bring him to justice," he added.
Al-Qaeda militants took advantage of the weakness of Yemen's central government during an uprising last year against now ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, seizing large swathes of territory across the south, including mainly Zinjibar and other towns in the province of Abyan.
But after a month-long offensive in May launched by Yemeni troops, most militants fled to the more lawless desert regions of the east.
Hundreds of gunmen descended on Zinjibar when they heard of the return of Fadhli "because this man works for Al-Qaeda," Waheshi said.
Authorities in the impoverished nation accused Fadhli of having links to Al-Qaeda.