Rights group: Yemen security forces raid hospitals



Sanaa (Yemen): Yemeni security forces have raided hospitals in Aden in search of suspected militants, threatening health care in the southern port city, an international rights group has said.

Human Rights Watch also said yesterday that government forces have stormed two hospitals in Aden at least five times this year, and on one occasion dragged a seriously wounded patient from intensive care after removing drainage tubes.

The raids have forced one hospital to suspend its operations and others to turn patients away in fear of violence, the group said in a statement.

"Gunfights in hospitals put patients and medical workers at grave risk and threaten to shut down health care in Aden," said Letta Tayler, HRW's Yemen researcher. "Both security forces and their opponents are showing callous indifference to human life."

The head of Central Security Forces in Aden, Colonel Abdul-Hafiz al-Saqqaf, denied that his agents had stormed hospitals, but said they went in to arrest three wanted outlaws who have attacked government checkpoints.

Another security official in Sanaa denied those arrested are political opponents, calling them outlaws who are hired to sow chaos in Yemen.

In its report, Human Rights Watch said security officials describe the patients as suspects in serious crimes, including armed robberies and attacks against state security forces.

The officials also said some of the suspects have links to the southern opposition movement, which is seeking greater autonomy for the former South Yemen.

Yemen's weak central government has been grappling with increased lawlessness in the country since the mass protest movement erupted last year against longtime leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was forced to step down in February.

The political unrest compounded the country's already long list of problems, poverty, a southern succession movement and a growing threat from al Qaeda-linked militants.

Islamic extremists took over a swath of territory and several towns in southern Yemen over the past year before a military offensive pushed them out this summer, although the militants continue to carry out bombings and assassinations in Aden and other cities in the south.

Security forces are also engaged in a simmering conflict with opponents and supporters of Saleh who continue to stir up trouble for the central government, often challenging official decisions and in some cases defying orders.

PTI