For Immediate Release
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Thousands in Need of Protection after Fleeing Yemeni Assault on Suspected Militants
WASHINGTON - Amnesty International has today urged the Yemeni authorities to
take urgent measures to protect thousands of people displaced during a
military operation against suspected al-Qa’ida militants in the town of
The Yemen Red Crescent Society has said more than 12,000 local
residents have fled the assault, in the southern region of Shabwa, but
reports indicate they are yet to receive any humanitarian aid.
Government officials state that the operation is against up to 100
al-Qa’ida fighters taking refuge in the town, while several inhabitants
of neighbouring areas have told Amnesty International that the suspected
militants are actually armed tribesmen with grievances against the
“Whatever the nature of the ongoing operations, the Yemeni
authorities must ensure as a matter of urgency that what amounts to a
shocking number of people displaced in the space of a few days are
adequately provided for,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s
Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“The authorities have a duty to ensure public safety and must
immediately fulfil the needs of the displaced in terms of food, water,
shelter and medical care, particularly for those who may have been
injured during their escape.”
Media reports suggest that at least one local resident has been
killed and others wounded while trying to flee, while dozens of
government soldiers and suspected militants are said to have died in the
fighting. The exact circumstances of the deaths remain unclear.
Families fleeing the scene have described how government forces began
shelling al-Hutah on Sunday, followed by tanks and armoured vehicles
descending on the town, leading to clashes between government troops and
The nature of the assault gives rise to concerns that government
forces have used what would be – for a law-enforcement operation –
grossly disproportionate force.
Amnesty International has documented previous occasions when the
government has failed to provide for the needs of people displaced by
conflict or other violence in Yemen, most recently during the
intermittent conflict between government forces and armed Huthi rebels
in the northern region of Sa’dah, which began in 2004.
In August 2009 the Yemeni government launched a military offensive
against the Huthis codenamed “Scorched Earth” which included aerial
bombing and the deployment of tanks and ground troops. In November 2009
Saudi Arabian forces began to launch air strikes in Sa’dah after
fighting spilled over onto their territory.
The ferocity of these bombardments, particularly in the three or so
months before a ceasefire was declared on 11 February 2010, led to mass
displacement of Yemeni civilians; almost the entire population of some
cities and villages fled to camps for the displaced in the nearby
regions of Hajjah and ‘Amran, as well as to the capital Sana’a and
A total of over 300,000 people have been driven from their homes in
Sa’dah since 2004, according to the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.
Amnesty International published a report on 25th August 2010 entitled
Yemen: Cracking Down Under Pressure which documented a catalogue of
human rights violations including unlawful killings of those accused of
links to al-Qa'ida and Southern Movement activists, and arbitrary
arrests, torture and unfair trials, occurring in the name of security.
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