Rescatistas cargan un cadáver extraído de un centro de detención de los hutíes destruido por bombardeos encabezados por los saudíes, en la provincia de Dhamar, en el suroeste de Yemen, el domingo 1 de septiembre de 2019. (AP Foto/Hani Mohammed)

Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen rebel-run prison kill over 100

September 02, 2019 - 9:24 am

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni medics said on Monday they pulled dozens of bodies from the rubble of a Houthi rebel-run detention center that was hit a day earlier by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, killing over 100 people and wounding dozens.

It was the deadliest such attack so far this year in a stalemated four-year war that's claimed tens of thousands of lives, thrust millions to the brink of famine and spawned the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The Saudi-led coalition, which has fought the Iran-backed Houthis since 2015, has faced international criticism for airstrikes that have hit schools, hospitals and wedding parties, killing thousands of civilians.

By the early afternoon, 86 bodies had been pulled from the ruins of a building complex in southwestern Dhamar province, originally a college but converted by the Houthi rebels to a detention center, Yemen's Red Crescent said.

There were around 170 detainees at the facility when the airstrikes hit on Sunday. The International Committee for the Red Cross said 40 wounded were being treated for injuries while the rest were presumed dead, and that it would likely take days to recover all the bodies. The facility was part of the local community college before the Houthis turned it into a detention center, one of dozens in areas under their control.

The Saudi-led coalition denied striking a rebel-run detention center, saying instead that it destroyed a Houthi facility used as storage for drones and missiles in Dhamar, "in accordance with international humanitarian law."

The Houthis said the detainees were captured forces loyal to Yemen's internationally recognized government and that both the Red Cross and the coalition knew detainees were being held there.

Local residents said the center also held their imprisoned family members, arrested for being critical of the Houthis.

The Red Cross, which inspects detention centers as part of its global mission, said it had visited detainees at the site in the past.

However, former detainee Mansour al-Zelai told The Associated Press that the Houthis were repairing weapons in and close to the detention center. Several other detainees said the same via posts to social media, and said the center had come under a series of airstrikes before.

Rights groups have also previously documented that the Houthis use civilian detainees as human shields by placing them in detention centers next to army barracks, under constant threat of airstrikes.

The Abductees' Mothers Union, an association of female relatives of detainees jailed by the Houthis, said "dozens of abductees and people who were disappeared by force" elsewhere in Yemen had been brought to the center from other areas under rebel control.

The mothers' group said some detainees had died from torture in the center and called for an international investigation into Sunday's airstrikes and abuses against the detainees.

The Yemen U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed Sunday that 52 detainees were among the dead.

Bashir al-Dawrani, a spokesman for Yemen's Red Crescent in Dhamar, said the wounded had been taken to various hospitals in Dhamar and the capital, Sanaa. Dhamar is located around 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Sanaa.

Elsewhere in Yemen, security officials said clashes flared up in the oil-rich province of Shabwa between forces loyal to the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and southern separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates.

The fighting between the two sides — a subplot within a broader narrative in which they are ostensibly allies in the Saudi-led coalition — has added another layer to the complex civil war in the Arab world's most impoverished country.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media, said government forces had blocked the southern separatists from taking control of the town of Azzan, a former stronghold for al-Qaida's Yemeni branch.

However, Hani Bin Braik, the deputy head of the secessionist leadership council, said its forces had captured the town.

The differing accounts could not immediately be reconciled.

The past weeks have seen heavy fighting in Yemen's south between Saudi-backed and Emirati-backed forces.

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