Militants backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have reportedly kidnapped and tortured hundreds of people in southern Yemen.
On Friday, the American news and analysis website The Daily Beast published an investigation bankrolled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism NGO, which pointed to the findings.
The probe said the militants, who would fight under the banner of the Elite Forces, had spirited the men away from their homes and brought them to a secret prison compound in southern Yemen, where they were tortured.
Earlier in the year, the United Nations had likewise reported an increase in forced disappearances in southern Yemen.
The UAE has served as an ally of Saudi Arabia in the latter’s 2015-present campaign in Yemen to restore the impoverished country’s former Riyadh-allied government. The Elite Forces have been fighting in Yemen since the same year to assist the Saudi-led campaign.
The investigators interviewed local rights activists and families of those abducted, who said the situation at the al-Riyyan airport, which has been used as a place of incarceration for the abductees, compared to that in the notorious US-run prisons such as Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Abu Ghraib in Iraq.
The kidnapping spree took place under the pretext of clearing out suspected al-Qaeda-linked elements. Activists, however, told the Bureau that many of those abducted had normal jobs while al-Qaeda was in control in the area, and were not tied to the group.
According to various reports, Abu Dhabi holds notable sway in southern Yemen and looks to be trying to expand its leverage there by lending its support to southern separatists.
The separatists are led by two pro-Emirati officials of Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who have been sacked by him over suspicions of serving the Emirates.
The men, Hadi’s governor for Yemen’s port city of Aden, Maj. Gen. Aidarous al-Zubaidi, and his state minister Hani bin Breik, reacted to the sacking by breaking ranks with Hadi and forming an autonomous regional body in southern Yemen.
Saudi Arabia then “invited” the separatists to the kingdom, in what was seen as an effort at seeking explanation from them for parting ways with Riyadh-allied Hadi.
Observers say the Emirates increased activities could drag Doha into a political struggle against Saudi Arabia.
Earlier in the month, Yemeni sources reported that militants backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had engaged in infighting in the southern port city of Aden, with UAE-backed militia seizing a facility there.