Saudi al­lies bar UN aid flight from Ye­men due to BBC team on board

Muscat Daily - - REGION -

Aden, Ye­men - A Saudi-led coali­tion fight­ing in Ye­men has barred a United Na­tions aid flight from head­ing to the coun­try’s rebel-held cap­i­tal with jour­nal­ists on board, the UN and Ye­men’s gov­ern­ment said on Wed­nes­day.

“The coali­tion sus­pended the UN flight leav­ing Dji­bouti for Sanaa on Tues­day as there were three BBC jour­nal­ists on board,” Saleh Humeidi, a top of­fi­cial with Ye­men’s In­for­ma­tion Min­istry, told AFP.

Saudi Ara­bia leads a pro-gov­ern­ment mil­i­tary coali­tion which is fight­ing Iran-backed Huthi rebels for con­trol of the im­pov­er­ished coun­try. The con­flict has killed more than 8,000 peo­ple and dis­placed 3mn since the coali­tion in­ter­vened in 2015.

The coali­tion has im­posed an air em­bargo on ar­eas con­trolled by Huthi rebels and their al­lies, former troops loyal to ex­pres­i­dent Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh - in­clud­ing Sanaa. In­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions re­quire clear­ance to de­liver aid to the coun­try, which the UN says is the world’s big­gest hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.

The UN on Wed­nes­day con­firmed that the flight had been can­celled de­spite all those on board hav­ing the re­quired visas.

“We con­firm that the coali­tion can­celled the Dji­bouti-Sanaa UN flight be­cause of a BBC team on the man­i­fest, ask­ing for the flight to be resched­uled with­out the jour­nal­ists,” said Ahmed Ben Las­soued, Ye­men spokesman for the UN’s hu­man­i­tar­ian co­or­di­na­tion of­fice, UNOCHA.

Ben Las­soued said the jour­nal­ists had se­cured visas from both sides of Ye­men’s con­flict - gov­ern­ment and rebel au­thor­i­ties - and shared their itin­er­ary with the Saudi-led coali­tion. The In­for­ma­tion Min­istry of Ye­men’s in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised gov­ern­ment, based in sec­ond city Aden, said it ‘re­grets the UN at­tempt’ to put jour­nal­ists on the flight.

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