Yemen's southern separatist movement is growing ever more violent and there are concerns it may gravitate toward al Qaeda triggering a new civil war that will spell the end of a country that was only unified in May 1990. In recent months, southern demands for secession have swelled and anti-government protests have become bloodier. Scores of people have been killed or wounded by troops firing on demonstrators. Hundreds have been imprisoned as demands for secession for the former Soviet-backed socialist state have spread. Much of the south and the eastern part of the country, where al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has sanctuaries in tribal areas, are in ferment. Clashes are becoming more frequent and widespread in what secessionists now call "al-Janoob al-Har"--the Free South. There have been attempts to assassinate government ministers and even President Ali Abdullah Saleh's motorcade has been attacked. On February 27, Saleh, a northerner, declared a state of emergency in Dalea, capital of the southern province of the same name, after an outbreak of protests that followed a call by separatist leader Tareq al-Fadhli for a "non-violent intifada." Scores of people were arrested after troops came under fire and shops were torched. Separatists killed a police officer in Zanjibar in the neighboring province of Abyan, the fourth security official assassinated in a week. Three days later, a socialist politician believed to have been active in the separatist movement, was gunned down in Zanjibar, apparently in retaliation for the murder of the policeman, underlining the regime's growing alarm.