Yemen's Houthi rebels admit kidnapping more than 2,800 civilians in past year

Leaders of the Iran-backed militia claim they were plotting against them

Houthi supporters rally to mark Ashura day in Sanaa, Yemen, on August 8. Reuters
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Yemen’s Houthi rebels have confessed to kidnapping more than 2,800 civilians in the past 12 months, including women and children, over suspicions of espionage.

The rebels, who took over the capital Sanaa in 2014 by ousting the internationally recognised government, have been accused of committing war crimes against the Yemeni people throughout the eight-year war.

Multiple human rights groups have said over the years that the rebels have caused the displacement of thousands of families by kidnapping, bombing homes, torturing prisoners and holding civilians without adequate legal representation.

“The Houthi's security services had kidnapped 2,619 civilians from multiple areas across the country on charges of supporting the Saudi-led coalition, in addition to 183 who were accused of rallying up ranks to support the Yemeni government and 54 others were accused of spying and co-ordinating against us,” Houthi leader Abdul Malik Al Ajri, the rebel's interior spokesman, said.

Mr Al Ajri was speaking at a press conference in the capital, Asharq Al Awsat newspaper reported.

“Our reasons for kidnapping civilians is due to their communication with the Yemeni government and the coalition supporting it,” he said.

Security measures by the rebels have intensified during the past few months through increased campaigns of persecution and kidnapping against hundreds of civilians across the capital, according to human rights groups.

Thousands of children recruited

Yemeni groups said the rebels have refrained from providing any details about the identities of those kidnapped, their whereabouts and their current health condition.

The EU said the rebels have forcibly recruited more than 10,000 children since 2014.

“The Houthis in Yemen have forcibly recruited 10,300 children, opening 52 training camps for thousands of adolescents,” European Parliament member Fulvio Martusciello said.

The rebels have “incited violence and promoted the group’s ideology through special lectures to fill students with extremist ideologies and involve them in the group’s military actions”, Mr Martusciello said.

He has been working for years to raise awareness and gather support on Yemen's humanitarian crisis.

Officials from Yemen's government have urged the international community to condemn the crimes the rebels are committing and to prosecute those responsible in the International Criminal Court.

The development comes as the rebels and government have agreed under the auspices of the United Nations to a nationwide ceasefire.

A two-month truce came into effect in April and has been renewed twice.

Updated: August 10, 2022, 11:20 AM