AL-MUKALLA: The internationally recognized government of Yemen and the Houthis have exchanged the bodies of 52 fighters killed on the battlefield, as the Iran-backed militia escalated their drone and ground attacks on Yemeni troops.
Hadi Jumaan, a local mediator, said the exchange took place this week in the northern province of Jouf, sharing photographs of several pickup trucks transporting piles of bodies wrapped in white burial shrouds through the desert.
Tribal mediators and social dignitaries who have the trust of the warring factions have sponsored a number of similar exchanges over the past eight years.
The latest came as relatives of some of the killed fighters accused the Houthis of mutilating and executing government soldiers they had captured alive.
Abdul Basit Al-Shajea said his brother, Abdul Wahab, was executed after being captured in battle and despite being shown to be alive by the militia’s own media. The Houthis then withheld news of the death from the family for months.
“The Houthi gang executed him and his fellow prisoners, the majority of whom were injured, by shooting them and pouring acid on their bodies,” Al-Shajea said, adding that his family were barely able to recognize the fallen soldier as his features had been burned away.
“Three months ago, my family was shocked to learn of the presence of my brother’s burnt corpse at the Dhamar Hospital mortuary, and its features were only confirmed with difficulty,” he said.
The exchange of the dead took place despite a second round of prisoner swap talks between the Yemeni government and the Houthis, which was supposed to have started this month, being postponed as the two sides traded accusations over obstacles to visits to each other’s cities.
Meanwhile, Yemen’s army said that three government soldiers were killed and four others were injured this week as the Houthis ramped up their drone and ground attacks in the Yafae district of Lahj province.
The militia also attacked government troops on the ground and with explosive-rigged drones west and east of the besieged city of Taiz. Similar attacks have been recorded on government troops defending the energy-rich city of Marib.
Separately, Yemen’s government said on Monday evening that all of the Yemenis who had been stranded in Sudan had now been evacuated. The announcement came soon after a Yemenia Airways flight carrying 150 Yemenis from Sudan touched down in Sanaa, taking the total number of Yemenis evacuated to 2,894.
“I appreciate all of the state agencies’ efforts to conclude the evacuation of our citizens from Port Sudan,” Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed said on Twitter.
Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awadh bin Mubarak said: “We affirm that the limited capabilities resulting from the Houthi militia’s coup, looting of the state’s capabilities and economic war against the Yemeni people will not prevent the legitimate government from utilizing all of its resources to care for its citizens and overcome all obstacles in their way.”