Sanaa, Aug 10 (AP/UNB) — Fighting between Yemeni government forces and southern separatists entered a third day Friday, leaving more than 20 killed, including five civilians, officials said.
The clashes could further complicate Yemen's bloody civil war and fracture the government side in the conflict. The government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, have been battling rebels since 2015.
Also on Friday, the rebel Houthis announced the brother of their leader was killed by the Saudi-led coalition.
The announcement by the rebel-run Interior Ministry in the capital, Sanaa, posted on the rebel Almasirah website offered no details on the killing of Ibrahim al-Houthi, brother of rebel leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi.
Yemeni security officials said people allied with the Saudi-led coalition killed Ibrahim al-Houthi and an associate in Sanaa earlier this week. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Farea Al-Muslimi, a visiting researcher with Chatham House, a London-based policy institute, said Ibrahim was a low-level figure who the Houthi leader used as a special envoy.
Abdel-Malek "used to rely on him to do political mediation, convey certain messages, strike political deals, or send threats, but the latter did not have any official title or position within the group," he said.
The rebel statement said Ibrahim was "assassinated by treacherous hands" in the Saudi-led alliance fighting the rebels on behalf of Yemen's internationally recognized government.
Yemen's stalemated war between the Iran-aligned Houthis and the government has claimed tens of thousands of lives, thrust millions to the brink of famine and spawned the world's most devastating humanitarian crisis.
The rebels control the country's north and Sanaa, while government forces of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi hold mainly southern Yemen.
But the south is also a stronghold of Yemen's separatists, who have clashed with Hadi's forces since Wednesday. Paradoxically, the separatists are supported by the United Arab Emirates, a key member of the Saudi-led alliance and as such, a Hadi ally — at least in theory.
Some 20 people were killed, including five civilians, and dozens were wounded in the violence, according to doctors in the southern port city of Aden and security officials, who all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
The clashes have pitted Hadi's guards against a UAE-backed militia known as Security Belt. Hani Bin Braik, deputy head of the so-called Southern Transitional Council, had called upon separatists to march on the presidential palace in Aden and topple Hadi.
The government, in turn, has accused the separatist leader of fomenting sedition that would only serve the rebels and called upon the Saudi and Emirati governments to press the separatists to halt their attacks.
The International Crisis Group warned Friday the fighting would "make an already multi-faceted conflict even more complex and intractable."
"Such a conflict would deepen what is already the world's worst humanitarian crisis and make a national political settlement harder to achieve," read a statement issued by the Brussels-based group.
The United Nations issued a statement late Friday saying Secretary-General Antonio Guterres "is deeply concerned by the violent clashes in Aden" and is calling on the parties to stop the fighting and engage in dialogue.
Similar clashes erupted in January 2018 when separatists attempted to seize government facilities and military bases in Aden. Peace was restored after a few weeks.
"We have seen what happens when you simply put a lid on things. In January 2018 the conflict was simply frozen in place and this is the result of that," said Peter Salisbury, senior analyst with ICG, a non-profit research institute.
A political and security arrangement envisaging a cease-fire and the inclusion of separatists into the government could serve as a long-term solution to the conflict, Salisbury explained.
Videos showing Hadi's forces on Aden streets carrying machine guns and cheering to prove they were in full control were circulated online. Hadi's fighers chanted "God is great, and we are all with legitimacy, we are all Abed Rabbo." In some of the videos, gunshots could be heard in the background and vehicle-mounted weapons could be seen.
The national airline, Yemenia Airways, the only operating airline in and out of Yemen, on Thursday diverted all flights to Seiyun airport, nearly 840 Kilometers (522 miles) northeast of Aden airport due to the volatile situation.
The International Rescue Committee announced Friday that it would suspend its aid operations in Aden citing the ongoing clashes.
"This spike in violence and instability is damaging vital infrastructure, including water supply, and will complicate aid efforts," the IRC said in a statement.
Separately, the World Food Program said Friday it would resume food aid for the 850,000 people in Houthi-controlled Sanaa City after the end of the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The partial suspension of aid to Sanaa began in late June amid accusations the rebels were diverting the food from the hungriest people in the Arab world's poorest country, which has been pushed to the brink of starvation. The suspension affected 850,000 people in Sanaa, where the WFP says the bulk of the looting was taking place.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said WFP welcomed what it called "important and positive steps" taken by Sanaa authorities on safeguards to ensure that food assistance reaches the most vulnerable people in Houthi-controlled areas.
He said as part of an Aug. 3 agreement, WFP will also start registering 9 million people in Houthi-controlled areas for smartcards, and it will be granted unimpeded access to all areas where it needs to work.
Seremban, Aug 10 (AP/UNB) — The parents of a 15-year-old London girl who disappeared from a Malaysian resort a week ago say she isn't independent and has difficulty walking, in new details to support their conviction that she was abducted.
Irish Meabh Quoirin and her French husband Sebastien Quoirin say Nora Anne was born with holoprosencephaly, a malformation that causes her to have a smaller brain and led to learning and physical disabilities.
They said in a statement Saturday that the teen likes to walk with her family but "her balance is limited and she struggles with coordination. She has been to Asia, and many European countries before, and has never wandered off or got lost."
The family discovered her missing last Sunday morning from the Dusun eco-resort in southern Negeri Sembilan state.
Mexico City, Aug 9 (AP/UNB) — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has arrived in El Salvador at the head of a congressional delegation meant to explore the causes of immigration and solutions.
The delegation is scheduled to meet Friday with activists and government and community leaders describe programs aimed at preventing violence and developing local economies.
An estimated 2.5 million Salvadorans already live in the United States.
The group has already visited Guatemala and plans to head to Honduras, as well as visiting migrant detention facilities in McAllen, Texas.
The Trump administration is trying to restrict applications for asylum in the U.S. from Central America by requiring migrants to apply in Guatemala rather than at the U.S. border.
Pelosi's delegation includes a dozen lawmakers, including the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Mexico City, Aug 9 (AP/UNB) — Vigilante attacks and mob justice appeared to be on the rise in Mexico this week as violence mounted, more than two dozen bodies appeared along roadsides and the government ruled out any new crackdown on criminal gangs.
Prosecutors in the northern state of Sinaloa said Thursday five young men have been murdered in recent days, and in all five cases toy cars were carefully placed atop their corpses. The men were apparently car thieves, and the toys indicated both the reason they were killed and served as a warning to other thieves.
The latest such murder came Wednesday. Prosecutors said the victim had been identified as the same man seen on security camera footage earlier that day stealing a pickup truck at gunpoint from a woman outside her home in the state capital, Culiacan.
That same day, a total of seven suspected kidnappers were killed by townspeople in the largest mass lynching in recent memory in the central state of Puebla. Some were beaten, some hanged.
The National Human Rights Commission said 43 people have been killed in lynchings so far this year, and 173 injured. That was up from the already-record year for mob justice in 2018.
"Those who take justice into their own hands commit acts of barbarism, not justice," the commission said.
Vigilantes say they have to act because authorities won't crack down on criminal gangs, which have become more brazen and have begun returning to the grisly mass executions that marked Mexico's 2006-2012 drug war.
On Thursday, the notoriously violent Jalisco cartel killed 19 people whose bodies — in some cases dismembered — were left hanging from an overpass and strewn along a highway in the western state of Michoacan. Another set of four dismembered bodies were found in plastic garbage bags the same day on a highway in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, and a few hours later, five more bodies were found wrapped in garbage bags elsewhere in the state.
It was in Michoacan that Mexico's last big anti-gang offensive was launched in 2006; and it was also in Michoacan where the country's biggest vigilante movement was started in 2013. Back then, farmers and ranchers rose up in arms to drive the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel out of the state with the help of the army and federal police.
Elements of those government forces have now been merged into the National Guard, a force that, under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has been loath to confront residents and criminals, in part because López Obrador discourages the use of force.
In July, villagers protecting fuel thieves in Puebla shoved aside armed National Guard forces and burned two of their patrol vehicles. In May, an armed gang in Michoacan abducted five soldiers to demand their army unit return illegal weapons soldiers had seized from the gang. López Obrador later personally congratulated the unit for avoiding violence.
Hipólito Mora, one of the founders of the 2013 Michoacan vigilante movement, said such tactics appear unlikely to work against violent, heavily armed cartels.
"The authorities should give the armed forces more leeway, not limit them, not allow organized crime gangs to throw stones at them and burn their vehicles," said Mora, who now has returned to working his lime orchards but still has the weapons he used in the vigilante movement.
"They (the cartels) grow when they are not stopped and the armed forces don't defend themselves," Mora said. "They say, 'We can do whatever we want.'"
But López Obrador said Friday he won't be drawn into the kind of army offensive that then-President Felipe Calderon launched against the cartels in 2006, when he sent troops to Michoacan. Over 100,000 homicides occurred in the next several years.
"We are not going to fall into the trap of declaring war like they did before," López Obrador. "That is what led us to this situation of crime and violence."
Instead, the president vowed to continue with programs to give youths jobs, training and education programs so they won't be recruited by drug cartels.
"We are going to continue treating the root causes of the violence," he said. "Peace and tranquility are the products of justice, and that may take time, but it is the best strategy."
López Obrador said he's well aware of the historical parallels.
"It was precisely there, in Michoacan, where they declared war on drug trafficking, and they kicked a hornets' nest, and that caused a lot of suffering and damage for the people of Mexico."
Mexico is still grappling with the lingering tragedy of the last drug war: the search for over 40,000 people who disappeared, never to be seen again. Relatives and activists have taken up the search themselves, digging in clandestine grave sites used by drug and kidnapping gangs.
On Thursday, activists declared they had closed the largest, longest such excavation carried out to date, a total of 156 burial pits excavated over three years that contained at least 298 bodies and thousands of bone fragments.
Relatives expressed certainty that no bodies remained in the vast burial field known as Colinas de Santa Fe in Veracruz state.
Rio De Janeiro, Aug 9 (AP/UNB) — Brazil's top court says officials cannot investigate U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald for his work or for protecting confidential sources — a ruling praised Friday by press rights groups.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said the ruling by Justice Gilmar Mendes "reinforces the principle of confidentiality of sources, which is paramount to the protection of a free press."
But the committee added that it remained "concerned about the deteriorating conditions for the independent press in the country."
Greenwald is the co-founder of The Intercept Brasil, a news website that has published a series of reports based on leaked chats raising questions about whether Brazil's justice minister, Sergio Moro, improperly consulted with prosecutors when he was a judge.
According to the reports, Moro, whose contribution to the anti-graft probe known as "Car Wash" has made him a hero for many Brazilians, allegedly orientated prosecutors in a case that led to the jailing of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
If Moro and "Car Wash" prosecutors teamed up, it could lead to the annulment of sentences.
Moro said he could not confirm the truthfulness of the leaked messages, to which he no longer has access. Both he and prosecutors deny any wrongdoing.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has sharply criticized Greenwald for the articles and suggested he should be jailed.
Justice Mendes said Thursday that "the constitutional secrecy" around journalistic sources prevented the Brazilian state from using "coercive measures" against Greenwald.
A statement from the Supreme Federal Court said press freedom was a "pillar" of democracy protected not only by the Brazilian constitution but also international human rights treaties to which Brazil is a signatory.