Tens of thousands of members of the Yemeni community in the US have denounced and protested against the murder of Yemeni-American Abdul-Malik Al-Sanabani who was visiting relatives this month, but was reportedly killed by an "armed gang" while passing through a checkpoint in the southern Lahj province en route to the capital Sanaa. The gang believed him to be a member of the Houthi movement, reports claim.
The 30-year-old, originally from the Dhamar province, had been living in the US for the past seven years and was heading to the northern Houthi-controlled region from the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) held port city of Aden in the south.
On Wednesday the STC-affiliated Al-Ayyam newspaper reported that soldiers had arrested a suspected Houthi fighter after allegedly taking pictures of military sites. Images have been widely shared on social media depicting Al-Sanabani detained on the back of a pickup truck surrounded by soldiers in civilian clothing.
Seeing the picture on the news, his family began searching for him and were eventually directed to the Republican hospital where his body was discovered. According to an audio recording attributed to a cousin, Al-Sanabani's body showed signs of torture, and had bullet marks on the back and leg.
Yemen's Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed has ordered authorities in Lahj to investigate the murder and tasked Governor Ahmed Al-Turki to bring the killers to justice.
Little Yemen in mourning for the brutal murder of Abdel Malek Alsanabani at a Yemen checkpoint because Sanaa International Airport is closed. pic.twitter.com/aX8f9Zt4wg
— Dr.Debbie Almontaser (@DebbiAlmontaser) September 12, 2021
The killing sparked outrage both across Yemen and among the diaspora in the US, who took to the streets to denounce the crime. Demonstrations took place in several cities with significant Yemeni communities, particularly in the states of New York, California and Michigan.
A statement issued by the Yemeni American Community (YAC) said: "We are profoundly concerned with the endless military support that the United States provides to the coalition led by both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates."
The statement added that Al-Sanabani's brutal murder is "by no means an isolated event, but part of a pattern of systemic state violence against the Yemeni people, which has escalated dramatically since the coalition intervened in 2015 and since Sanaa International Airport was forcefully closed by Saudi Arabia."
Many protestors, including the tribe to which Al-Sanabani belonged, feel that the on-going siege and closure of Sanaa International Airport were factors in his death as they forced him to travel to Aden airport as an alternative route. It was reported last month that some 95,000 Yemeni patients in need of medical treatment overseas have died due to the airport's closure.
Last week the Houthi-led government's Civil Aviation Authority condemned the murder and looting of Al-Sanabani's belongings and repeated calls on the UN Security Council to open Sanaa airport unconditionally and ensure the safe passage of Yemeni civilians, adding that hundreds of thousands of Yemeni expatriates are waiting for it to open to return or visit home.
The body's spokesperson and Director of Air Transport, Dr Mazen Ghanem, said: "How long will the international community remain silent about the crimes committed against the Yemeni people, unable to open Sana'a International Airport, which is technically ready, a safe airport for all Yemenis, and the nearest to two-thirds of the population of the Republic of Yemen"