(Adds Hassani comments)
ADEN, Aug 18 (Reuters) - A Yemeni southern secessionist
leader who was arrested on arrival in Aden from Britain on
Wednesday said on Saturday he had been released by the security
Ahmed Abdullah al-Hassani had been living abroad but Yemeni
media reported last week that he was planning to return to meet
other leaders of the southern secessionist movement in Aden, the
capital of the former state of South Yemen.
He was then seized by a group of armed men who boarded the
plane to arrest him, other separatist politicians said.
North and south Yemen unified in 1990 when the collapse of
the Soviet Union undermined the communist south's economy, but
political harmony was short lived and an attempted southern
secession in 1994 prompted a brief civil war, won by the north.
Southern Yemenis have since complained of discrimination.
Secessionist sentiment, focused on building a socialist state,
was spurred by the uprisings that swept the Arab world last
Hassani, a former navy commander and diplomat, said he had
been released late on Saturday evening.
"The arrest did not affect our determination to struggle for
the freedom and independence of the south," Hassani told Reuters
after his release.
"We will meet with southern leaders to discuss prospects for
the next stage with the aim of moving forward with the objective
of restoring the southern state," he added.
The Middle East's poorest country, where guns outnumber
people by a ratio of three-to-one, is also grappling with an
insurgency by al Qaeda sympathisers and a conflict in the north
with the militant Houthi group of Zaydi Shi'ite Muslims.
Former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled in north
Yemen since 1978, was forced from power early this year after a
year-long popular uprising that caused splits in the military
and divided the country's powerful tribes.
(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing by Angus McDowall;
Editing by Alison Williams)