Yemen rebels capture border district

The Houthi rebels in northern Yemen claim to have captured Munabbih (Munabah), a district bordering Saudi Arabia.

Reuters quotes a rebel statement saying local residents had turned against the authorities because of rights abuses and "citizens took full control of government buildings". 

AFP adds that the rebels have also attacked Baqam, another border village further east. Rashed Mohammed al-Alimi, deputy prime minister for defence and security, told parliament they "killed women and children and ransacked the premises of the local administration." He added: "The rebels were aiming to capture the Alb border post" and the government has sent extra troops to block the move.

Despite almost daily news of the killing of dozens of rebels by government forces, the latest situation report from the UNHCR says the war seems to be widening and "the signs suggest that the conflict is no closer to ending soon".

With access from the south severely restricted, hopes of providing humanitarian aid from the north via Saudi Arabia have also so far come to nought.

"The cross border operation between Saudi Arabia and Yemen to deliver assistance to those IDPs [displaced persons] stranded at the border has been delayed at the request of Yemeni government," the UNHCR says. "The government’s acting relief coordinator will visit the area to conduct a needs and security assessment before allowing UN staff to enter the area."

There are other problems further south: "In Amran, UN distribution has been stopped at the request of the government – despite the fact that UNHCR has access to this population – until the camp is established in Khaiwan. The authorities want to ensure that only IDPs benefit from the assistance and not members of the local community. In the meantime, UNHCR is working closely with the government to find a way forward to fill the assistance gap and is advocating that IDPs should not be penalised because there is no camp."

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 9 October 2009.