Yemeni journalist killed in explosion

New York, January 8, 2015–A television correspondent was killed in the Yemeni city of Dhamar on January 4 when a bomb exploded while he was covering attempts by Houthi militiamen to defuse it, according to news reports. Khaled al-Washli, a correspondent for the Houthi-owned Al-Masirah TV, was one of at least six victims killed by the bomb, the station said in a statement.

The explosion is one of the latest episodes of violence in Yemen, where fighting on multiple fronts and between several factions has escalated in recent months, according to news reports. Militia from the rebel Houthi movement have taken control of several cities including the capital, Sana’a, and Dhamar. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has countered with attacks against the Houthis, while continuing its campaign against the government.

“The security situation for journalists in Yemen has deteriorated sharply as the violence has escalated,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour. “All armed factions in Yemen should do their utmost to respect journalists’ status as noncombatants.”

A statement posted online on January 4 by a Twitter account affiliated with AQAP claimed the group had placed the bomb, and said that dozens were killed and injured. Al-Masirah and other news outlets reported that at least five members of a local security force created by the Houthis were killed, as well as al-Washli. The station published graphic footage on its Facebook page showing the aftermath of the explosion, including a camera and microphone in a pool of blood.

A statement on the Al-Masirah Facebook page said that al-Washli was the station’s first journalist to be killed while reporting. Videos posted to YouTube show the 37-year-old journalist reporting for the channel on the violence in Yemen, including several reports filed from funerals.

Local press watchdog Freedom Foundation condemned the bombing and said it came amid a string of assaults, kidnaps, and threats against journalists in Yemen in recent months. Al-Washli is the second journalist in Yemen killed in the past four weeks as the result of AQAP activity. In December, kidnapped American freelance journalist Luke Somers was killed along with South African teacher Pierre Korkie in a failed rescue attempt by U.S. special forces, according to U.S. officials and news reports.

The explosion that killed al-Washli is the second incident in the Middle East in the past six months when a journalist was killed while covering an attempt to defuse explosives. In August 2014, Simone Camilli, an Italian video journalist for The Associated Press, and freelance translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash were killed in the Gaza Strip when police attempted to neutralize an unexploded missile, according to CPJ research.