Three Al Jazeera journalists working in war-ravaged Yemen who went missing this week likely have been kidnapped, the satellite news network said, the latest reporters targeted in the civil war gripping the Arab world’s poorest country.
Reporter Hamdi Al Bokari and crew members Abdul Aziz Al Sabri and Moneer Al Sabai were last seen Monday night in Taiz, a city in southern Yemen that’s been the scene of heavy fighting for months now, the Qatari broadcaster said.
The network said it was “in contact with related parties in Taiz” to find the men and ensure their safety.
In a statement late Thursday night, Al Jazeera’s acting director-general Mustafa Souag called for the men’s immediate release.
“Our colleagues were simply doing their job of reporting the story and informing the world on what is taking place in Yemen,” Souag said. “It is tragic to see that in times of conflict, news organisations continue to be targeted. Journalists should have the freedom to do their work without the fear of intimidation, abduction or unlawful arrest.”
The network said Al Bokari, a Yemeni national, has worked for Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel since 2006. Al Sabri is also a reporter for Al Masdar newspaper, while Al Sabai works as a driver, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
Yemen’s civil war began when Al Houthi militiamen took control of the capital, Sana’a, in September 2014. In March, a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia began air strikes and later, a ground operation to retake the country from Al Houthis, who are allied with forces loyal to Yemen’s former president and have received support from Iran.
Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city prior to the war, sits in the country’s rugged interior mountains. It is of strategic importance because it lies along a main route from the port city of Aden, which Saudi-led forces hold, leading to the rebel-held Sana’a.
For months, residents and aid groups say Al Houthis have been indiscriminately shelling Taiz and blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid there.
Yemen’s conflict has killed some 5,800 people since March and left over 80 per cent of the country’s population in dire need of food, water and other aid, according to the United Nations.
Journalists also have been targeted in the conflict. Al Houthis have detained reporters while at least four journalists have been killed in air strikes, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
On Sunday, 35-year-old reporter Al Miqdad Mohammad Ali Mojalli, who contributed to the Voice of America, Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper and the Nairobi-based Integrated Regional Information Networks, was killed in an attack outside of Sana’a.
“Security in Yemen has rapidly deteriorated in the past year, making it one of the most dangerous places in the world to work as a journalist,” Sharif Mansour of the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement Thursday night. “We call on all parties to cease targeting journalists and to free immediately all members of the media that they are holding.”