Yemeni airport that served as a notorious UAE 'torture site' resumes flights

Yemeni airport that served as a notorious UAE 'torture site' resumes flights
An airport used by the United Arab Emirates as a prison has been reopened for service, taking its first flight in five years on Wednesday.
2 min read
28 November, 2019
Al-Rayyan Airport was closed after al-Qaeda took control of Mukalla in 2015 [Getty/Archive]

An airport in southern Yemen has been reopened after a five-year closure, during which UAE forces used it as a military base and a prison, Yemeni officials said on Wednesday.

The officials said the first civilian flight in five years landed Wednesday at the Al-Rayyan Airport in Mukalla in Hadramout province, about two months after UAE handed over the facility to Yemeni authorities.

The officials say the detainees, mostly Al-Qaeda and Islamic State group militants, were moved to other UAE-run prisons in Yemen.

The officials demanded anonymity because they weren’t authorised to brief the media.

Al-Rayyan Airport was closed after Al-Qaeda took control of Mukalla in 2015. After the liberation of the city in April 2016, the facility has become a military base and headquarters of the UAE and Saudi forces fighting the Houthi rebels.

Last year, reports emerged that Yemeni prisoners swept up in anti-terror raids by Emirati-backed forces have been subjected to torture and sexual abuse while in detention.

Drawings smuggled out the Beir Ahmed prison in Aden showed a man hanging naked from chains while being subjected to electric shocks, with another inmate on the floor surrounded by snarling dogs as several people kick him and graphic depictions of anal rape.

The UAE, a key US ally, had denied that it controls any prisons in Yemen and has said that Yemen's government is in full control.

Yemeni Interior Minister Ahmed Al-Maysari has said on previous occasions that he has no control over the prisons and he can't enter Aden without the Emiratis' permission. 

At least 13,000 people have died since a Saudi-led coalition, including the UAE, intervened in Yemen's conflict in March 2015, sending the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of famine.

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