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UN accuses UAE-backed Yemeni forces of 'retaliatory attacks' against northerners

Human rights office says 'Security Belt' forces exacting retribution for recent attacks by militants and Houthis
Dozens of newly trained cadets were killed in a Houthi attack last week on a military parade in Aden (Reuters)

The UN's human rights office has accused southern Yemeni security forces of perpetrating "retaliatory attacks" against citizens from the country's north.

"We have received information from multiple sources about arbitrary arrests and detention, forced displacement, physical assaults and harassment," spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said in a statement on Tuesday.

Shamdasani said the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed 'Security Belt' forces are "reportedly carrying out and enabling retaliatory attacks against civilians" originating from northern Yemen.

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She said the alleged targeting of northerners is "apparent retaliation" for deadly attacks claimed last week by militants and the Houthis.

The UAE is part of a Saudi-led military coalition backing the UN-recognised government against Houthi rebels in the country's conflict.

At least 49 people were killed in two separate attacks on Thursday in government-held Aden, on Yemen's southern coast.

The first was a suicide car bombing carried out by militants on a police station, which was followed by a Houthi assault targeting newly trained cadets at a military parade, officials said.

A day later, al-Qaeda gunmen killed 19 soldiers in an attack on an army base in southern Yemen, according to security officials.

'Arrests and forced displacements'

The UN human rights office cited reports suggesting "security forces searched hotels and restaurants, stopping people, demanding their identification, and rounding up those hailing from the northern parts of Yemen".

"We are continuing to gather... details of the violations they have been subjected to, but initial reports suggest hundreds have already been displaced," said Shamdasani.

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"Such arrests and forced displacements breach international human rights and humanitarian law," she added.

Yemen's Prime Minister Moeen Abdulmalik Saeed on Sunday decried "violations of citizens' rights," in a Twitter post warning of negative repercussions for Yemeni unity.

Yemen has been at war for more than four years. 

The Houthis control the capital Sanaa and most cities in northern, central and western regions, while the government maintains a makeshift capital in Aden. 

In the south, where secessionists claim independence, there is strong resentment of citizens from the north.

Southern Yemen was an independent state until 1990 and the north is perceived to have imposed unification by force.