AL-MUKALLA: The Iran-backed Houthis have abducted two more Yemeni employees of the US embassy in Sanaa, according to a lawyer in the city. Meanwhile the militia has ordered the seizure of more properties belonging to its opponents.
Abdul Majeed Sabra, a Yemeni lawyer who defends abductees held in Houthi prisons, told Arab News on Thursday that two press officers at the shuttered US embassy in Sanaa have been detained. They were identified as Abdul Rahman Al-Sharabi and Nabiel Sultan.
The latest detentions come almost four months after the Houthis stormed the embassy compound, seized the property and detained about two dozen local workers.
When Arab News contacted the US Department of State, a spokesperson refused to confirm or deny the latest reports of abductions, citing concerns about the safety of embassy staff, but said that efforts are being made to secure the release of all detained workers.
“We condemn the Houthis’ continued detention of US and UN local Yemeni staff in Sanaa in the strongest possible terms,” he said. “This action sends worrying signals about the Houthi commitment to peace and intentions toward the international community.”
The US closed its embassy in the Yemeni capital in 2015 and American staff left the country as the Houthis tightened their grip on power after overthrowing the internationally recognized administration of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Armed Houthis occupied the US embassy compound in November and detained at least two dozen Yemeni staff. Nearly half were released but the militia has refused to free the rest despite mounting local and international pressure and condemnations.
In December, two UN organizations accused the Houthis of abducting two members of their staff a month earlier and called on the militia to release them immediately.
Meanwhile, a former spokesperson for the Houthis said on Wednesday that the militia’s authorities had seized his house and other property in Dhamar province.
Ali Al-Bukhaiti defected from the movement and fled the country, first to Jordan and then the UK. He said that a group of Houthi officials led by his brother, Mohammed Al-Bukhaiti, who governs Dhamar, had taken his house in their home province as part of new seizure orders targeting opponents of the militia. He added that the Houthis previously stole furniture from his law office in Sanaa, but vowed that he would continue to oppose the movement and its leader, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi.
“What happened confirms what we had said earlier, that Abdul Malik Al-Houthi is just a thief and a gang leader,” Al-Bukhaiti said on Twitter.“By the way, I say: Just as the confiscation of the law firm and the furniture of the villa in Sanaa did not affect me, the confiscation of my house in Dhamar will not change my position.”
Since seizing power militarily in Yemen in late 2014, the Houthis have used judicial authorities in the areas they control to issue seizure orders and justify looting the properties of hundreds of Yemeni military officials, politicians, lawyers, human rights activists and journalists who fled rebel-held territories.
Also on Wednesday, a court run by the Houthis in Sanaa sentenced three people, including the principal of a private school in the city, to death. They were charged with forming armed groups and colluding with the Yemeni government and the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen.
Elsewhere, warplanes from the coalition reportedly have destroyed a large amount Houthi military equipment in the northern province of Hajjah, where the militia is attempting to seize strategic areas controlled by the government in the districts of Haradh and Abes.
The coalition said it carried out 27 operations in Hajjah that destroyed 16 military vehicles belonging to the rebels. And Yemen’s Defense Ministry said that six airstrikes by coalition warplanes hit Houthi fighters and military vehicles in Haradh on Thursday morning.