Saudi Arabia bars BBC reporting team from Yemen

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Yemen's information ministry said it 'feared for the safety' of the journalists, who were stopped from travelling to Djibouti

A picture shows the international airport in the Yemeni capital Sanaa (AFP)
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Last update: 
Wednesday 19 July 2017 15:57 UTC
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Senior journalists for the BBC were prevented from going to Yemen after the Saudi-led coalition refused to allow their entry on a UN aid flight.

The journalists were scheduled to travel on the UN plane from Djibouti to Sanaa on Tuesday.

"The coalition suspended the UN flight leaving Djibouti for Sanaa on Tuesday as there were three BBC journalists on board," Saleh Humeidi, an official with Yemen's information ministry, told AFP. 

Three BBC journalists are understood to have been on the flight, including a senior correspondent.

The information ministry of Yemen's internationally recognised government, based in Aden, said it "regrets the UN attempt" to put journalists on the flight.

Authorities "feared for the safety of the journalists", it said.

"We confirm that the coalition cancelled yesterday 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 Houthi rebel authorities in Sanaa - and shared their itinerary with the Saudi-led coalition.

The Saudi coalition has placed an air and sea blockade on Yemen as it fights a war against the Houthi rebel movement, and effectively controls the country's airspace.

The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced three million since the coalition intervened in 2015. 

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. 

The BBC did not immediately comment.

Yemen's conflict has pushed seven million people to the brink of famine, according to the UN. 

The country has also been hit by a deadly conflict-induced cholera outbreak that has claimed more than 1,740 lives since late April.