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Yemen security official and 2 soldiers killed in south

ADEN (Reuters) - Gunmen shot dead a senior security official in south Yemen, scene of escalating separatist tensions, and two soldiers died defusing a bomb near a southern army camp, officials and witnesses said on Sunday.

A provincial official said Jalal al-Uthmani, a senior security official in the flashpoint Abyan province, was killed outside his house in a hail of gunfire on Saturday.

In neighboring Dalea, two soldiers died on Sunday when a bomb they were trying to defuse outside the gate of an army camp exploded, witnesses and local officials said.

Yemen, neighbor to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, has been a Western security concern since a Yemen-based regional al Qaeda arm claimed responsibility for a failed December attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound plane.

Yemen’s Western allies and Saudi Arabia fear a resurgent al Qaeda wing could exploit unrest to use Yemen as a base for destabilizing attacks in the region and beyond. They want the government to resolve internal conflict and consolidate power.

But a separatist movement in the south has taken on steam in recent months, with deaths on both sides, even as a separate civil war with Shi’ite rebels subsides in a northern corner of the Arabian peninsula state.

North and South Yemen formally united in 1990 but many in the south, where most of impoverished Yemen’s oil facilities are located, complain northerners have used unification to seize their resources and discriminate against them.

Reporting by Mohamed Mukhashaf; Writing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton