SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen’s Houthi rebels broke their silence on Saturday about the cause of a fire that ripped through a migrant detention center earlier this month, killing at least 45 people, mostly Ethiopians.
Guards fired three tear gas canisters into a crowded hangar in Sanaa’s capital, the rebels admitted, in an attempt to put an end to a migrant protest.
According to a statement released by the rebel-run Interior Ministry, at least 11 members of the security forces, as well as a number of senior officials, have been arrested and will be tried in court.
Sanaa’s migrant community has demanded an international investigation into the tragedy, a demand supported by international human rights organizations.
Approximately 900 migrants, the majority of whom were from Ethiopia, had been arrested at the facility, with more than 350 being held inside the hangar. The Passports and Naturalization Authority was in charge of the website.
According to the rebels, at least 45 people were killed in the March 7, including one who died of his wounds on Friday. More than 200 people were wounded.
Survivors and local rights activists claimed that the migrants were protesting and going on hunger strike against alleged violations and ill-treatment at the detention facility.
The migrants were protesting on Saturday, according to the rebels, in order to put pressure on the International Organization for Migration to transfer them.
Yemen remains a transit point for tens of thousands of African migrants desperate to find work as housekeepers, servants, or construction workers in Saudi Arabia, despite its six-year civil war.