Yemen’s Huthis detain 18 aid workers, 11 United Nations staff
DUBAI: (Web Desk) Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi militants have detained over a dozen aid workers, including 11 United Nations personnel, in an apparently coordinated crackdown.

 "Huthi de facto authorities have detained 11 United Nations national personnel working in Yemen," UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said. "We're pursuing all available channels to secure the safe and unconditional release of all of them as rapidly as possible."

The Yemeni Mayyun Organization for Human Rights said at least 18 Yemeni aid workers were kidnapped in four rebel-held parts of the war-torn country, Al Monitors reported.

The "simultaneous" abductions took place in Sanaa, the key port of Hodeida, Amran and Saada, the rebels' traditional stronghold, the aid said.

Human Rights Watch said the Huthis "appear to be arbitrarily detaining the individuals based on their employment," adding that the whereabouts of many remain unknown.

The abductees include the husband and children, ages three years and nine months, of a woman who works with a civil society organisation in Yemen, HRW said.

The Huthis have kidnapped, arbitrarily detained and tortured hundreds of civilians, including UN and NGO workers, since the start of Yemen's conflict in 2014, according to rights groups.

Yemen's internationally recognised government condemned the "massive abduction campaign," saying it targeted "dozens of employees of UN agencies, the office of UN envoy Hans Grundberg, and several international organisations working" in the capital Sanaa and other Huthi-run areas.

In a statement on social media platform X, Information Minister Moammar al-Eryani called it an "unprecedented escalation and a flagrant violation of international laws and conventions".

There was no immediate comment from the Huthis.

"The Huthi armed group raided the homes and kidnapped staff of the United Nations and other international organisations operating in four governorates under" their control, the Mayyun Organization said.

This "serious escalation... constitutes a violation of the privileges and immunities of United Nations personnel", it added, describing the abductions as "blackmail practises in order to obtain political and economic gains".

Several aid workers have been killed or kidnapped throughout the conflict, forcing international agencies to temporarily suspend operations or pull out international staff as a security precaution.

"The Huthis' actions are undermining essential humanitarian work in Yemen at a time when the majority of Yemenis do not have adequate access to basic necessities like food and water," Niku Jafarnia, Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch, told AFP.

The Yemeni information minister said the Huthis have "previously abducted dozens of United Nations employees", with at least three kidnapped over the past three years still in detention.

Last year, charity Save the Children suspended operations for 10 days in northern Yemen after a staff member died in detention in the rebel-held capital.

Also last year, a long-serving staffer with the UN World Food Programme was shot and killed in the southern city of Taez by unknown gunmen.

The Huthis seized control of Sanaa in September 2014, prompting a Saudi-led military intervention on behalf of the government the following March.

Since November, they have launched a flurry of drone and missile strikes targeting ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, a campaign they say is intended to signal solidarity with Palestinians amid the Gaza war.