UN food agency worker killed in south Yemen in 'brutal attack'

UN food agency worker killed in south Yemen in 'brutal attack'
A staff member of the UN's World Food Programme has been killed in Yemen in an apparent attack against civilians at a restaurant in the southern Yemeni Red Sea town of Turbah.
3 min read
21 July, 2023
The WFP is operating to distribute food aid to alleviate Yemen's humanitarian crisis [Getty]

A UN food agency staff member has been killed in an attack in Taez province in southern Yemen, the organisation and the health minister of the internationally recognised government said Friday.

Health minister Qasem Buhaibeh had tweeted his condolences to the World Food Programme staffer's family, calling for security forces to "arrest the criminals" responsible for the killing.

A WFP spokesperson later confirmed the death to AFP, saying: "WFP is deeply saddened that a dedicated staff member was killed in Yemen today by unknown gunmen.

"We cannot comment further at this time. More information will be shared as appropriate," the spokesperson added.

Buhaibeh had previously identified the staffer before later removing his name and nationality.

The head of the Yemeni presidential council, Rashad al-Alimi, meanwhile ordered the pursuit of the "criminal elements involved in carrying out the armed attack that resulted in the death of a UN employee and the wounding of others in the city of Turbah", according to the Yemeni news agency, Saba Net.

Alimi spoke by phone with Taez governor Nabil Shamsan who said that the attacker had been identified, according to preliminary intelligence.

Fighting between a Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen's internationally recognised government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels has eased over the past year, although sporadic attacks continue.

Taez is controlled by the internationally recognised government but is surrounded and blockaded by areas under Houthi control.

The conflict in Yemen broke out in 2014 when the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa, prompting the Saudi-led coalition to intervene the following year.

In April, a Saudi delegation led by Mohammed al-Jaber, the kingdom's ambassador to Yemen, travelled to Sanaa for direct talks with the Houthis, fuelling hopes for a negotiated settlement.

In a further sign of easing tensions, Yemeni Airways flew pilgrims direct from Sanaa to Saudi Arabia for last month's annual hajj pilgrimage.

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Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed directly and indirectly in more than eight years of fighting in Yemen, resulting in one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

The war has displaced 4.5 million Yemenis internally and pushed more than two-thirds of the population into poverty.

There have also been previous attacks on aid workers throughout the years of the conflict.

In 2018, Lebanese aid worker Hanna Lahoud, who worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross, was killed by unknown assailants in Taez province.