ADEN (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 forces.
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 spring.
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 sympathizers 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)