Outrage over Yemen’s Houthi rebels alleged shooting of a child in Taez

It comes days after a dentist was executed and crucified for espionage

epa08610135 Students wear masks as they take final school exams amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, at a school in Sana'a, Yemen, 18 August 2020.  EPA/YAHYA ARHAB

The shooting of a Yemeni child in the city of Taez by an alleged Houthi sniper has sparked nationwide outrage with activists urging rapid action against the rebel movement.

Taez, Yemen’s third-biggest city, has been a frontline in the conflict that started after the Iran-backed Houthi rebels ousted the internationally recognised government from the capital, Sanaa, in 2014.

A UN-mediated deal reached in Stockholm in December 2018 aimed to set up a committee to establish humanitarian corridors to the city, but little progress has been made so far.

The little girl, whose name is unknown, was apparently going to get water for her family on Monday when she was targeted by a sniper.

Painful images showed the girl’s body in a pile of blood after she was shot. They circulated on social media with the hashtag “Houthis are child killers” going viral.

Her brother attempted to pull her back into their house.

A human rights activist, Muna Luqman, said the child is another victim of the rebel’s vicious acts in the city.

"I have seen children and women killed and injured by Houthi snipers in Taez as they invaded the city and positioned on rooftops causing armed conflict with resistance forces," Ms Luqman said.

Hundreds of civilians, mostly children and women, have been shot dead by the Houthis since 2015, Nadwa Al Dawsari, a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute and expert on Yemen, said on Twitter.

“How we know it was Houthis? Because Houthi snipers are stationed in the hill that overlooks the neighbourhood where it happened,” Ms Al Dawsari said.

The girl’s health conditions remain unknown.

It comes as an armed group executed a dentist accused of spying for the government and guiding US drone strikes targeting Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The dentist, identified as Motthar Al Youssoufi, was shot and then the terrorists crucified his corpse and left it outside his health centre.

The execution took place on Saturday in Somaa, a district of Yemen's central Al Baida province.

Reports indicate that Al Qaeda carried out the execution after a video, claimed by the terror group, showed the dentist "confessing" to having worked with government security services, and to having placed microchips to guide US missile strikes.

Yet, experts say the video was not posted on Al Qaeda’s media outlets.

"I've been following the dentist's story. AQAP did not issue anything regarding it at least not yet," Elisabeth Kendall, Yemen expert at Oxford University, told The National.

“It is worth stressing that neither AQAP, nor any other party, has yet provided any hard evidence of the dentist's alleged spying, other than confessions apparently extracted from him under duress,” Ms Kendall said.

“The incident seems slightly out of kilter with usual AQAP practice, in particular the 'leak' of the confession video. Normally this kind of execution would be carefully managed and the Public Relations communications would include a formal statement and justifications, so as not to alienate locals. Therefore, this could be rogue,” Ms Kendall said.

A former UN expert on Yemen, Fernando Carvajal, told The National, that Al Qaeda has decentralised in Yemen and their presence has widely redeployed in the provinces of Taez, Al Baydha, Shabwa and Hadramawt.

“Decentralisation has forced them (AQAP militants) to look for new sources of funding and recruitment tactics, in the province of Taez they are more criminal organisations, and embedded with resistance forces," Mr Carvajal said.