(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Civilians flee violence in the south

IDPs next to their tents in Mazraq Camp. Up to 270,000 people had been displaced by the latest flare-up
Adel Yahya/IRIN

Thousands of civilians have fled their homes in the coastal town of Zinjibar, capital of Yemen’s Abyan Governorate, some 500km southeast of Sana’a, following three days of intensified army ground attacks and air strikes against militants who stormed the city on 28 May, local media report.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said unconfirmed reports indicated 300-400 families had been displaced and some had already approached the UN Refugee Agency office in Aden for assistance. It warned that the situation could deteriorate further, given the ongoing volatile situation in the south.

The local independent news website Barakish.net reported that Zinjibar, normally with a population of nearly 20,000, had become deserted, with civilians fleeing to the neighbouring Aden, Lahj and Taiz governorates.

Hundreds of displaced civilians were now living in the open outside Zinjibar. They could not take anything with them from their homes, said Ahmad Naji Mulhim, spokesperson for the Zinjibar council.

“These displaced civilians are calling on the government to treat them like it treats Somali refugees, who live in tents with basic necessities provided. They also urged local and international humanitarian organizations to provide relief assistance,” Mulhim told IRIN.

As for Taiz, local and international media say at least 57 protesters were killed and 1,000 injured when the police and army stormed Liberty Square and burnt down demonstrators' tents on 29 and 30 May. Another seven protesters in Taiz were killed on 31 May.


Reacting to events in Yemen, European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton said in a statement: “I am shocked and condemn in the strongest terms the use of force and live ammunition against peaceful protesters in the city of Taiz. Reports of attacks on medical facilities are appalling. The continued repression by the Yemeni regime and grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law cannot be accepted. Those responsible for such deeds must be held accountable.”

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said her office had unconfirmed reports that more than 50 people had been killed since 29 May in Taiz by the Yemeni army, Republican Guards and other government-affiliated forces who ransacked the protest camp in Horriya Square using water cannon, bulldozers and live ammunition. Hundreds more were reportedly injured.

“Such reprehensible acts of violence and indiscriminate attacks on unarmed civilians by armed security officers must stop immediately,” Pillay said in Geneva, adding that there were also reports that security forces had occupied Al-Safa hospital in Taiz, that the field clinic in Horriya Square had been burned, and that there was little or no access to emergency medical care.

“Reports of civilian casualties, including children, are particularly worrying, as is the mass displacement of the population of Zinjibar,” she added.


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