Charity reveals 'scorched earth' Yemen images

Sunday 23 October 2011 07:52

Amnesty International has revealed a collection of images that it says show the scale of the devastation caused by Yemeni and Saudi Arabian aerial bombardments of the northern Yemeni region of Sa'dah.

The human rights organisation says the images were taken last month in and around the town of al-Nadir. It says they show buildings destroyed in the latest in a series of clashes between Yemeni forces and supporters of a Shia cleric.

Among the damaged or destroyed civilian buildings photographed are what it says are market places, mosques, petrol stations, small businesses, a primary school, a power plant, a health centre - and dozens of houses and residential buildings.

Amnesty International Middle East Deputy Director Philip Luther said: "This is a largely invisible conflict that has been waged behind closed doors. These images reveal the true scale and ferocity of the bombing and the impact it had on the civilians caught up in it. This information has only now come to light through Yemenis who fled the conflict and have reached other parts of the country."

International humanitarian law forbids the targeting of civilian objects during conflicts. Deliberate attacks would be war crimes.

The organisation says the bombardments came in the sixth round of fighting in the region since 2004 between Yemeni forces and the so-called Huthis - armed followers of a Hussain Badr al-Din al-Huthi, a Shi'a cleric from the Zaidi sect killed in September that year. Government restrictions on access to the region combined with landmines and other security concerns mean that no independent observers or media are believed to have visited the area in recent months.

Amnesty International says the pictures are consistent with testimony given by many witnesses who had fled Sa'dah earlier this month.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said in March that about 250,000 people from Sa'dah had fled the conflict, around 10 per cent of them ending up in camps. The rest are living with relatives or in derelict or half-completed buildings in the capital Sana'a and elsewhere in the country.

Reuters: At least 12 al-Qa'ida members have crossed from Yemen into Somalia in the last two weeks, bringing money and military expertise to Somali rebels battling the Western-backed government, a senior Somali official said.

Somalia's al-Qa'ida-linked al Shabaab rebels are waging a deadly insurgency against the transitional government headed by a former rebel and are intent on imposing a harsh version of Sharia Islamic law throughout the war-ravaged nation.

A smaller group - Hizbul Islam - which has an alliance with al Shabaab in Mogadishu, expressed its loyalty to al-Qa'ida on Wednesday for the first time and invited Osama bin Laden to Somalia.

"Our intelligence shows 12 senior al-Qa'ida officials came into Somalia from Yemen in the last two weeks," said Treasury Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman, adding that he had been briefed by Somalia's intelligence agencies.

Associated Press: Yemen's government and the Shia rebels it fought for years should investigate allegations they both committed war crimes and hold perpetrators to account, a human rights group urged Wednesday.

The Yemeni government and northern Hawthi rebels reached a cease-fire agreement in February. But the truce contains no accountability provisions, said Human Rights Watch, which called on both sides to investigate the allegations.

"In many cases these violations are wrapped up in the grievances that have fueled the conflict to begin with," said Joe Stork, deputy director for the Middle East at HRW.

He called for independent probes of alleged "serious laws of war violations" in order to sustain the truce and to prevent a repeat of crimes should the cease-fire break down.

The report by the New York-based watchdog, released in Dubai, outlines a series of alleged abuses based on interviews conducted with civilians and aid workers in October. HRW officials said they wanted to release the report in the Yemeni capital San'a but were not granted visas by the authorities.

Allegations include indiscriminate bombing and shelling by government forces, and on-the-spot executions and the use of human shields by rebels. HRW also accuses both sides of using child soldiers.

Both the Yemeni government and the rebels declined to comment on the HRW report.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments