UN concerned about lives of civilians trapped in fighting on Yemen coast

Jamie McGoldrick. (AP file photo)
Updated 31 January 2017
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UN concerned about lives of civilians trapped in fighting on Yemen coast

ADEN: The top UN humanitarian official in Yemen said on Tuesday he feared for the lives of civilians in two Red Sea coast cities where Yemeni government forces and their Gulf Arab backers are on an offensive to oust Iran-allied Houthi militia.
Coalition-supported Yemeni Army forces advanced northward into Al-Mokha and Dhubab last week in a bid to deprive the Houthis of strategic Red Sea ports.
“I am extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of civilians in the Dhubab and Al-Mokha districts of Taiz Governorate,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen Jamie McGoldrick said in a statement.
“Repeated airstrikes, shelling and sniper attacks in and around the town of Al-Mokha have killed and injured scores of civilians and have ground most services to a halt, including the main market and the water supply system.”
Some 20,000 to 30,000 people were trapped in Al-Mokha and in need of assistance, he added, but intense fighting was impeding safe access for relief agencies.
Houthi forces attacked a Saudi warship stationed off the coast on Monday night, causing an explosion that killed two crew members and injured three others, according to SPA.
The Houthis said they had launched a ballistic missile at a coalition military base on the Red Sea island of Zuqar between Yemen and Eritrea on Tuesday morning, posting video of the attack on their news channel, Al-Masira.
Meanwhile, Yemeni security forces killed an Al-Qaeda leader in the province of Lahj during a raid on Tuesday, police said.
Ammar Qaid, known as Al-Qaeda’s “emir” in Lahj, was killed in an exchange of fire with “counter-terrorism” forces after refusing to surrender, said provincial police chief Saleh Sayed.
The raid in the provincial capital Huta was carried out as part of a vast operation backed by an Arab military coalition against the terrorists in Aden, Abyan and Lahj, in southwestern Yemen.
They are three of five provinces under the control of government forces at war with Iran-backed Shiite rebels.
In southern Hadramawt, meanwhile, suspected Al-Qaeda militants shot dead policeman Ali Al-Bekri on Monday night in the town of Qotn before fleeing, a security source told AFP.
In the north of the country, heavy clashes on Monday killed 21 loyalist soldiers and seven rebels in Midi and Haradh, military sources said.
The pro-government forces had come under fire in a minefield as they advanced, said one source.
Separately, Yemen believes that US President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on certain Muslims traveling to the US supports extremists, a news agency run by the government has reported.
“We resent the US ban ... such decisions support the stance of extremists and sow divisions,” the SABA news agency quoted a source at the Foreign Ministry as saying.
The country on the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula is one of seven Muslim-majority countries whose citizens face a 90-day ban on entering the US.
Yemen’s northern regions, including the capital Sanaa and the country’s largest international airport, are controlled by the Houthis group while its internationally recognized government is based in the south and east.
Yemen’s long-running conflict escalated in March 2015 when the coalition began bombing raids against the Houthis who had stormed the capital.


Vulture with GPS tracker held in Yemen on suspicion it was used for spying

Updated 25 April 2019
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Vulture with GPS tracker held in Yemen on suspicion it was used for spying

  • The bird migrated from Bulgaria, to Turkey, to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and then Yemen
  • Govt forces detained the bird on suspicion that the attached GPS tracker was a spy device for Houthi militants

SANAA: Griffon vulture Nelson crossed into war-torn Yemen in search of food but ended up in the hands of Yemeni fighters — and temporarily in jail for suspected espionage.
The sand-colored bird came down in the country’s third city of Taiz, an unusual move for a young vulture that can soar for long distances across continents in search of food and moderate weather.
Nelson, approximately two years old, embarked on his journey in September 2018 from Bulgaria, where his wing was tagged and equipped with a satellite transmitter by the Fund for Wild Fauna and Flora (FWFF).
But he seems to have lost his way, eventually coming down into Taiz — under siege by Houthi rebels but controlled by pro-government forces, who mistook Nelson’s satellite transmitter for an espionage device and detained the bird.
Forces loyal to the government believed that the GPS tracker attached to the bird may have been a spy device for the rebels.
Hisham Al-Hoot, who represents the FWFF in Yemen, traveled from the rebel-held capital Sanaa to Taiz to plead with local officials to release the helpless animal.
“It took about 12 days to get the bird,” he told AFP.
“The Bulgarian foreign ministry reached out to the Yemeni ambassador, who in turn contacted local officials (in Taiz) and told them to immediately give the organization the vulture.”
Hoot said that the bird migrated from Bulgaria, to Turkey, to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and then Yemen — where the FWFF lost track of the bird.
Nelson was MIA until April 5, when the conservation group received hundreds of messages from Yemenis concerned about the creatures’ welfare.
Today, the locally-famous vulture is being properly fed and getting stronger every day.
“When we first took him, he was in very bad condition,” said Hoot, adding that the bird was underweight.
Smiling, he puts on gloves and carefully handles the majestic creature — blowing it a kiss.
Hoot said the bird will be released in two months when he believed Nelson will have regained his full strength and his wing — broken somewhere during his journey — will have healed.
“We thought at first it would take six months for him to heal, but now we don’t think it will be more than two months,” he said.
Hoot said that Nelson was not able to find any source of sustenance in Yemen.
“They can eat carcasses of dead animals, but now there is no more with the current situation of war.
“This is what forced him to come down and stopped him from completing his journey.”
The four-year conflict in Yemen has unleashed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations, with millions facing famine.
The war escalated in March 2015 when a coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, intervened to bolster the efforts of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
Since then, at least 10,000 people — most of them civilians — have been killed and more than 60,000 wounded, according to the World Health Organization. Other rights groups estimate the toll could be much higher.