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Published: Saturday December 28, 2013 MYT 2:45:02 AM
Updated: Saturday December 28, 2013 MYT 2:45:51 AM

Shell hits Yemeni funeral gathering, killing 15 - witnesses

SANAA (Reuters) - An explosive shell hit a funeral gathering attended by southern separatists in Yemen, killing 15 people, including children, on Friday, witnesses and medical sources said.

Witnesses said the shell had been fired by a tank and blamed the army. One local army officer, who asked not to be named, told Reuters a military outpost had fired the shell by mistake, and the man in charge was being investigated - though there was no immediate comment from the defence ministry in Sanaa.

Around 40 people were also wounded in the strike on a tent where mourners had come to pay their respects to the family of a southern separatist who died earlier in the week, the sources told Reuters.

The tent had been set up inside a school in the southern province of al-Dhalea by members of the al-Herak al-Janoubi, a coalition of groups aiming to set up an independent state in the region.

President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi set up a committee to investigate the incident, state news agency SABA reported, without going into further details.

Yemen is struggling to restore state authority after mass unrest ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh a year ago.

Islamist militants strengthened their grip on parts of the country, before being pushed back by U.S.-supported military action - and southern groups stepped up their campaigns for separation.

Yemen's north and its once-Marxist south united in 1990, but civil war broke out four years later. Then-President Saleh crushed southern secessionists and maintained the union.

Elsewhere, two Islamist militants were killed in an air strike in east Yemen, residents and a local official said.

The strike hit a car carrying the militants in Hadramout province setting it on fire, they said.

(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden and Mohammed Ghobari in Sanaa; Writing by Rania El Gamal)

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