Yemen: Saudis bomb anti-bombing demonstration

It requires a really special kind of cynicism to pull this one off—the kind born of complete impunity, when the world gives you a blank check to carry out any kind of atrocity. Saudi fighter jets on Aug. 21 carried out air-strikes on a peaceful rally in Yemen's capital Sanaa that had been called to protest Saudi air-strikes. Most recent accounts put the death toll at three, but it seems very likely to rise. The protesters were mostly armed, and began firing on the warplanes with their AK-47s after the air-strikes, in a useless act of defiance. The rally was called after Doctors Without Borders (MSF) withdrew its staff from six Yemen hospitals in response to a Saudi sir-strike on a hospital that left 19 people dead in the northern province of Hajja. It was the fourth health facility supported by MSF to be hit by Saudi-led coalition air-strikes over the course of the war, now in its 17th month. The US continues to have military advisors directly supporting the Saudis' air war in Yemen. This week, their number was cut from about 45 to five, although US officials said this was not due to concern over civilian casualties. (Nine News, Australia, Aug. 21; BBC News, Aug. 20; NYT, Aug. 18)

The Sanaa demonstration was called by the Shi'ite Houthi rebels that the Saudis are fighting (and who largely control the capital)—and they are also revealing themselves as a very nasty lot. Amnesty International is calling the Houthis to release 27 members of the minority Baha'i faith detained in Sanaa without charge. Armed officers in balaclavas from Yemen's National Security Bureau (NSB, apparently controlled by the Houthis), stormed a Baha'i youth workshop on Aug. 10 and arrested 65 people, including women and minors, Amnesty said. While some have been released, 27 remain held without charge, denied access to lawyers or family. More arrests were carried out this week. "The arbitrary arrests of Baha'i people for doing nothing more than attending a peaceful community event is completely unjustifiable," said Amnesty's Magdalena Mughrabi. (AFP, AI, Aug. 17)

Given the persecution of Baha'is in Iran, this news will strengthen the perception that the Houthis are an Iranian proxy force.

  1. Saudi air-strikes wipe out water-drilling team

    At least 15 civilians were killed when Saudi warplanes targeted workers drilling for water in the Beit Saadan area of the Arhab district north of Sanaa. Residents said the planes, apparently mistaking the drilling machine for a rocket launcher, bombed the site and killed four workers. The planes conducted a second raid when residents of the village rushed to the scene, killing at least 11 more and wounding 20. (Reuters, Sept. 11)

  2. US military kills 13 AQAP fighters in Yemen

    The US killed 13 al-Qaeda operatives in three separate attacks that targeted the group’s branch in Yemen over the past two weeks. All three assaults took place in the province of Shabwa, where AQAP remains entrenched, despite an offensive spearheaded by the United Arab Emirates to dislodge the group from southern Yemen. (LWR, Sept. 8)