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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Yemen rebels detain dozens of student protesters: activists

Men and women were arrested and taken to 'unknown locations'

Yemenis walk through a market in the old quarter of Sana'a, Yemen. EPA
Yemenis walk through a market in the old quarter of Sana'a, Yemen. EPA

Yemeni rebels on Saturday detained dozens of students protesting in the capital Sanaa against poverty in the war-torn country, activists and witnesses said.

Local activists, asking not to be named, said that the Shiite Houthi movement detained at least 55 students, including 18 women, near Sanaa University.

Houthi authorities had warned it would "beat and arrest" anyone taking part in demonstrations in the rebel-held capital, residents said, after local activists called for a mass protest against inflation and famine.

The Houthi rebels said on Saturday that they arrested a "number of people" in Sanaa for disturbing the peace.

Those arrested are linked to pro-government forces and "were paid to spread rumours... and destabilise security", the Houthi-run Saba news agency reported.

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Witnesses said the detained men and women were chanting: "We will sacrifice our soul, our blood for you, Yemen."

The students were taken to a nearby Houthi-run police station, after which they were transported to "unknown locations", the activists told Agence France-Presse, adding the rebels closed the university as part of security measures.

Houthi authorities have launched a crackdown on activists and deployed heavy security across Sanaa, according to activists and witnesses.

Since 2014, the Iran-aligned rebels have been battling the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, which is backed by a Saudi-led military coalition.

The war has triggered what the UN calls the world's largest single humanitarian crisis, with more than three-quarters of the population in need of aid and 8.4 million people at risk of famine.

Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in 2015 to support the government in its fight against the Houthis.