Houthi shelling kills 6 in Taiz as UN Yemen envoy visits Aden

More than 60 military vehicles, artillery weapons and cannons were involved in the raid. (AFP/File)
More than 60 military vehicles, artillery weapons and cannons were involved in the raid. (AFP/File)
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Updated 07 January 2021

Houthi shelling kills 6 in Taiz as UN Yemen envoy visits Aden

Houthi shelling kills 6 in Taiz as UN Yemen envoy visits Aden

AL-MUKALLA: At least six civilians, including two women and two children, were killed and many more wounded on Wednesday in heavy artillery and cannon shelling by the Houthis in the southern province of Taiz, a local Yemeni official told Arab News.

Col. Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemeni army spokesperson in the southern city of Taiz, said that the Iran-backed Houthis launched a major raid in Taiz’s Al-Haima region, east of the province, targeting a military officer loyal to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

More than 60 military vehicles, artillery weapons and cannons were involved in the raid, Al-Baher said.

“The Houthis shelled the area with heavy weapons that killed and wounded at least 18 civilians and destroyed many houses,” the military officer said on Thursday afternoon, adding that Houthi fighters were stationed on high locations where they shelled the area and gunned down residents. “Through my conversations with some residents, we learned that the raid is still going on and the Houthis are determined to humiliate the people.”

The targeted officer is said to be a sniper from the Republican Guards who engaged in fighting against the Houthis. During the raid, the Houthis blew up two houses and took several children hostage to force the officer to surrender. Images posted on social media showed heavy smoke billowing from targeted houses and farms as the Houthis heavily shelled the area. The Houthis staged a similar assault on Al-Haima in 2018, looking for the same person.

Also in Taiz, the RASD Coalition for Monitoring the National Dialogue, a Yemeni organization that documents human rights violations during the war, said on Jan. 4 that more than 70 attacks by the Houthis on civilian targets in Taiz from Nov. 1 to Dec. 19 had killed 11 civilians, including six children, and wounded 37 others, including 21 children and four women in different districts in Taiz. Houthi missile and mortar strikes had also damaged or ruined 25 private and government facilities.

The escalation in attacks by the Houthis comes as the UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths on Thursday landed in the port city of Aden. After touching down in Aden airport, the UN envoy visited parts of Aden airport that were damaged by the missile attack.

On Dec. 30, three guided missiles ripped through Aden airport shortly after the arrival of Yemen’s new unity government, killing 27 people and wounding more than 100 and triggering local and international outrage.

The Yemeni government accused the Houthis and Iranian military experts of staging the attack and called for labeling the Houthi movement a terrorist group. Despite his strong condemnations of the attack, Yemeni government officials pushed to convince the UN Yemen envoy to issue a statement shaming and naming the Houthis for attacks on civilians and derailing peace efforts to end the war.

During a meeting with the Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed Awadh bin Mubarak at the presidential palace in Aden on Thursday, the UN Yemen envoy renewed his support for the new government and the strong condemnations of the deadly attack on Aden airport. The foreign minister called for punishing the Houthis for violating international law by targeting a civilian facility, officials told Arab News.

On Wednesday, the Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi told Griffiths that Iran ordered the Houthis to attack Aden airport with missiles to ruin peace efforts, and that the Houthis had never been serious about reaching a peace agreement to end the war in Yemen.

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack
Updated 57 min 14 sec ago

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack
  • More than 340 execution orders “for terrorism or criminal acts” were ready to be carried out
  • The orders came after twin suicide attacks claimed by Daesh killed 32 in Baghdad

BAGHDAD: Rights defenders fear Iraq may give the green light to a spree of executions of convicted militants in a show of strength, days after a deadly suicide attack in Baghdad.
On Sunday, an official from Iraq’s presidency told AFP more than 340 execution orders “for terrorism or criminal acts” were ready to be carried out.
“We are continuing to sign off on more,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The orders were disclosed to AFP after twin suicide attacks claimed by the Daesh group on Thursday killed at least 32 people in a crowded open-air Baghdad market.
The blasts were a jolting reminder of the persistent threat posed by the jihadists, despite the government declaring victory over them in late 2017.
The official, along with judicial sources contacted by AFP, could not provide additional details on when the executions may take place or if they included foreigners convicted of belonging to IS.
A 2005 law carries the death penalty for anyone convicted of “terrorism,” which can include membership of an extremist group even if they are not convicted of any specific acts.
Rights groups have warned that executions were being used for political reasons.
“Leaders resort to announcements of mass executions simply to signal to the public that they’re taking... (these issues) seriously,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The death penalty is used as a political tool more than anything else,” she told AFP on Sunday.
In mid-2018, outgoing Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced 13 executions under the Counter-Terror Law, and for the first time authorities published pictures of the hangings.
That came after Daesh killed eight civilians.

Since the official declaration of victory over Daesh, Iraq’s courts have sentenced hundreds to death for crimes perpetrated during the jihadists’ 2014 seizure of around a third of the country and their brutal three-year hold over cities including Mosul.
But only a small proportion of the sentences have been carried out, as they must be approved by the president.
Barham Saleh, who has held the post since 2018, is known to be personally against capital punishment, and has resisted signing execution orders in the past.
Some Iraqis took to social media to demand tougher action from Saleh after Thursday’s attack, accusing him of “not carrying out the sentences” and risking a prison break.
Despite Saleh’s moderating influence, Iraq in 2019 carried out the fourth highest number of executions among nations worldwide, after China and Iran, according to Amnesty International.
Iraq carried out 100 executions that year — one out of every seven worldwide.
Judicial sources told AFP at least 30 executions took place in 2020.
They include 21 men convicted of “terrorism” and executed at the notorious Nasiriyah prison in November.
The move sparked condemnations from the United Nations, which described the news as “deeply troubling” and called on Iraq to halt any further planned executions.

Rights groups accuse Iraq’s justice system of corruption, carrying out rushed trials on circumstantial evidence and failing to allow the accused a proper defense.
They also condemn cramped conditions in detention centers, saying those arrested for petty crimes are often held with hardened jihadists, facilitating radicalization.
Iraq’s government has declined to provide figures on detention centers or prisoners, including how many are facing terrorism-related charges, although some studies estimate 20,000 are being held for purported Daesh links.
UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said late last year that given such gaps in Iraq’s legal system, implementing capital punishment “may amount to an arbitrary deprivation of life by the State.”
Ali Bayati, a leading member of Iraq’s Human Rights Commission, told AFP the country had “limited options.”
“Capital punishment is part of the Iraqi legal system — and we do not have real rehabilitation centers,” he said.
“We lack clear guarantees and real transparency in the interrogation and ruling sessions, and in allowing human rights organizations to play their role.”