1,200 Flee Yemen Prison

1,200 Flee Yemen Prison1,200 Flee Yemen Prison

Some 1,200 prisoners, including convicted murderers and Al-Qaeda members, walked out of a Yemeni jail when fighting led guards to abandon their posts, in the latest example of instability in Yemen.

State news agency Saba said Al-Qaeda militants and militia members stormed the prison on Tuesday, DW reported.

The jailbreak marks the third time convicts have been freed from Yemeni prisons since a Saudi-led air campaign on Yemen began in late March to restore Yemen’s fugitive president Abd-Rabbuh Manshour Hadi to power and repel Houthis.

Militants from Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, released some 300 prisoners from their cells in the port city of Mukalla in April, while several inmates were freed in the southwestern city of Dhale.

Al-Qaeda has long found Yemen to be a haven for their militants, but the group has recently come under increasing pressure from rival militant group Islamic State. IS killed at least 28 people in its latest attack in the capital Sana’a.

 Call for Probing Unlawful Strikes

Human Rights Watch released findings on Tuesday detailing the devastating consequences of unlawful airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and urged US authorities to investigate strikes that “had gone horribly wrong.”

Under international war laws applicable to the conflict in Yemen, “warring parties are required to take precautionary measures to minimize incidental loss of civilian life,” said Philippe Bolopion, HRW’s UN and crisis chief.

Walid al-Ibbi, one of the few people in his family who survived when his home in northern Yemen was bombed repeatedly on May 5, said he lost his wife, his four daughters and 22 other family members.

Earlier that day, his eldest daughter had received a marriage proposal, he told HRW researcher Belkis Wille, who traveled to al-Ibbi’s hometown to report on the destruction.

“I didn’t even have time to celebrate with her. I cannot believe everyone I love is gone.”

Al-Ibbi is one of scores of people who lost loved ones in the northern town on Saada, a historic trading town 75 km from the border with Saudi Arabia, when a Saudi-led coalition began bombing Yemen in late March.

The Saudis designated all of Saada, with an estimated population of 50,000, as a military target. The coalition has carried out hundreds of airstrikes on the city, destroying all of its markets, a gas station, a school and numerous residential buildings.

In all, more than 200 locations were targeted, HRW found. At least 35 of the 59 people killed were children and 14 were women.

Saudi airstrikes and fighting on the ground have left close to 3,000 people dead and displaced more than one million as access to food, clean water and medical supplies has become increasingly scarce.

 US Potentially Liable

Bolopion stressed the need for investigation, pointing the finger at the US as the main supporter of the Saudi-led coalition, and potentially one of the countries involved in the unlawful strikes.

“It should be an obligation for the US to investigate those strikes that seem to have gone horribly wrong,” he said.

“They should also look into any violations where US forces might have been implicated, either because they refueled jet planes or because they provided targeting information ... in some cases, this support can make the US liable.”

Two months into the war, Wille says Yemenis are suffering a humanitarian crisis that grows more desperate “day by day.” Saada, once a bustling market town, is now a “shell of what it once was.”

Moreover, Yemenis face a severe lack of water, gasoline and medicine. Many cars have been converted to run on cooking oil, Wille said, but that is also running out.