Houthis use force to break up migrant protest calling for probe into fatal fire

Under mounting international pressure, the Houthis blamed 11 policemen for throwing explosive devices that sparked the blaze. (AFP)
Under mounting international pressure, the Houthis blamed 11 policemen for throwing explosive devices that sparked the blaze. (AFP)
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Updated 26 March 2021

Houthis use force to break up migrant protest calling for probe into fatal fire

Houthis use force to break up migrant protest calling for probe into fatal fire
  • Dozens of migrants have been camped outside the UN office in Sanaa since the fatal fire

AL-MUKALLA: Iran-backed Houthis in Sanaa on Thursday used strong-arm tactics to disperse hundreds of protesters demanding an international probe into the deaths of dozens of migrants in a detention center fire in the Yemeni city earlier this month.

Yemen’s Human Rights Minister Ahmed Arman told Arab News that armed Houthis roughed up Ethiopian migrant demonstrators who had taken to the streets of Sanaa to call for an investigation into the March 7 blaze and to highlight their conditions in the war-torn country.

Protesters told Oromia News Network, an Ethiopian news agency, that the militia group used “excessive force” to break up the rally and rounded up several organizers and people attending the demonstration. A number of migrants were reportedly beaten with sticks and others thrown into military vehicles.

Dozens of migrants have been camped outside the UN office in Sanaa since the fatal fire demanding that the international organization launch an inquiry into the incident at the overcrowded holding center.

Under mounting international pressure, the Houthis blamed 11 policemen for throwing explosive devices that sparked the blaze and accused UN bodies of failing to renovate and increase the size of migrant detention centers in areas under their control.

Government officials, local and international human rights activists, and foreign diplomats in Yemen have called for an independent investigation to bring to justice Houthi officials they claim ordered the torching of the center.

But the Houthis have rejected pleas for a probe instead accusing their opponents of exploiting the incident to discredit the movement.

Yemeni officials say the international community had left the migrants in the lurch as the Houthis were still abusing them and refusing to compensate fire victims and their families.

Majed Fadhail, Yemen’s deputy minister of human rights, told Arab News that the migrants had on Thursday left their sit-in outside the UN office to take their protest to the streets of Sanaa.

“They fear that their case could be forgotten and that the criminals will get away with their crimes as the international momentum after the incident did not yield any fruits,” he said, adding that the Yemeni government stood by the migrants and their demands for justice.

Meanwhile, on the Yemeni battlefields, dozens of rebels and government forces have recently been killed in fierce fighting in the central province of Marib and southern province of Taiz, according to local media reports.

Yemen’s official news agency SABA said on Thursday that Yemeni army troops had expelled rebels from several mountain locations and villages in Maqbanah district, west of Taiz, and killed, wounded, and captured a number of Houthis.

The latest uptick in fighting in Taiz started earlier this month when the army launched an offensive to push the Houthis from the edges of the city and end the group’s six-year-long siege of Taiz.

In Marib, there were clashes in several mountain areas as the Yemeni army and its allied tribesmen, backed by the Arab coalition, pushed back Houthi attacks.

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