Journalist, media workers killed in air strike in Yemen

New York, April 21, 2015–A TV journalist and three staff members of the satellite TV station Yemen Today were killed in an air strike in Sana’a on Monday, while at least 10 staff members were injured, according to news reports and the station. The air strike was one of many launched by a Saudi-led coalition of countries that has attempted to regain control of major cities from the grip of the Houthi militia.

“The deaths of journalist Mohamed Shamsan and Yemen Today staff members underscore that the climate for the media in Yemen is exceedingly dangerous,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We urge all sides in the conflict to respect journalists’ stature as civilians, to refrain from targeting media outlets, and to ensure that the press can safely do its vital work.”

The blast in the Fag Attan district of the capital killed Mohamed Shamsan, news correspondent for the station; security personnel Monir Aklan and Hazzam Mohamed Zeid; and Amin Yehia, an accountant, according to the station. Ten other staff members, who weren’t identified by the station, were injured, four of whom are in critical condition, the station said. Yemen Today’s broadcasting was interrupted for about an hour, local news reports said.

A video on the station’s YouTube channel showed the damage to the building and graphic footage of the head injuries to Shamsan. The video also featured one staff member, Nabil el-Ayani, who said he and Shamsan were working on a story about 100 feet from the station when their car was hit by debris and shrapnel following the blast. He said Shamsan was killed and another of his colleagues, Abdullah al-Shakeri, was injured.

Mohamed al-Radmi, the station manager, accused the Saudi-led coalition forces of targeting the station, according to the station’s website. According to news reports, the station is affiliated with former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is allied with the Houthis. On Sunday, the station aired an interview with Saleh, who is in hiding since stepping down in February 2012 following popular protests. In the interview, Saleh criticized President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and the air strikes launched by the Saudi-led coalition.

On March 30, Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said in a press conference that media outlets supporting the Houthi movement would be targeted, but did not say how. On Monday, the coalition website, set up by the Saudi embassy in Washington, said air strikes had destroyed a major weapons depot at Fag Attan mountain, but did not comment on Yemen Today. CPJ’s email to the Saudi embassy in Washington was not immediately returned.

The airstrike took place near a mountaintop air defense base that warplanes had been bombing for days, The New York Times reported. Residents suggested that the bomb had struck an underground munitions depot, the paper said.

The air strikes, which were launched on March 25 by a coalition of 10 countries and led by Saudi Arabia, have fallen almost daily on Sana’a, which is the current stronghold of the Houthi militia. The Saudi-led coalition aims to restore President Hadi to the presidency, according to news reports. Hadi fled to Aden in the south in February 2015 after Houthi rebels overran Sana’a and other cities in September 2014, forcing the government to resign, according to news reports. He is now in Saudi Arabia, reports said.

  • For more data and analysis on Yemen, visit CPJ’s Yemen page here.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This alert has been updated to reflect the correct date that President Hadi fled to Aden in February 2015 and to reflect that Shamsan’s car was hit by debris from the explosion.