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Airstrike on Yemen prison leaves at least 70 dead

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At least 70 people were killed in an airstrike on a prison as Yemen’s long-running conflict suffered a dramatic escalation Friday that drew condemnation from UN chief Antonio Guterres.

The Huthi rebels released gruesome video footage showing bodies in the rubble and mangled corpses from the attack, which levelled buildings at the prison in their northern heartland of Saada.

The Saudi-led coalition, which has been fighting the rebels since 2015, released a statement on Saturday denying it carried out the strike.

Reports of the targeting of the rebel-held facility are “baseless and unfounded”, said coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki, who was quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The coalition official said the prison was not placed on a “No Strike List in accordance with the agreed upon mechanism” with the United Nations’ humanitarian affairs office in Yemen and had “not been reported by the International Committee of the Red Cross”.

Al-Malki said the coalition would share with both agencies “the facts and details, as well as the media misinformation” by the Huthis about the facility.

Further south in the port city of Hodeida, at least three children died when airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition hit a telecommunications facility as they played nearby, Save the Children said. Yemen also suffered a country-wide internet blackout.

“The children were reportedly playing on a nearby football field when missiles struck,” Save the Children said.

Eight aid agencies operating in Yemen said in a joint statement they were “horrified by the news that more than 70 people, including migrants, women and children, have been killed… in a blatant disregard for civilian lives”.

They said the prison in Saada was used as a holding centre for migrants, who made up many of the casualties.

The strikes came after the Huthis took the seven-year war into a new phase by claiming a drone and missile attack on Abu Dhabi that killed three people on Monday.

They came as the UN Security Council met to discuss that attack at the UAE’s request.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement Friday called for “all parties to the conflict to de-escalate” and “abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law” after the Yemen strike and the attack on the Emirati capital.

– ‘Proportionate response’ –
The United Arab Emirates insisted that it and other coalition members remained committed to “proportionate” responses to Huthi attacks.

“The coalition undertakes to abide by international law and proportionate response in all its military operations,” UAE ambassador to the United Nations Lana Nusseibeh said.

The Security Council unanimously condemned the “heinous terrorist attacks” by the Yemeni rebels, but in a statement before the meeting the council’s Norwegian presidency also strongly condemned the latest violence.

In a later statement, the UN said Guterres “reminds all parties that attacks directed against civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited by international humanitarian law.”

Aid workers said hospitals in Saada were overwhelmed after the prison attack, with one receiving 70 dead and 138 wounded, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Two other hospitals have received “many wounded” and as night fell, the rubble was still being searched, the aid agency said.

– ‘Horrific act’ –
Ahmed Mahat, Doctors Without Borders’ head of mission in Yemen, said: “There are many bodies still at the scene of the air strike, many missing people.”

“It is impossible to know how many people have been killed. It seems to have been a horrific act of violence.”

The coalition claimed the attack in Hodeida, a lifeline port for the shattered country, but did not say it had carried out any strikes on Saada.

Global internet watchdog NetBlocks reported a “nation-scale collapse of internet connectivity”.

AFP correspondents in Hodeida and Sanaa confirmed the outage.

Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when the Huthis descended from their base in Saada to overrun the capital Sanaa, prompting Saudi-led forces to intervene to prop up the government the following year.

Tensions have soared in recent weeks after the UAE-backed Giants Brigade drove the rebels out of Shabwa province, undermining their months-long campaign to take the key city of Marib further north.

On January 3, the Huthis hijacked a United Arab Emirates-flagged ship in the Red Sea.

And on Monday, they claimed a long-range attack that struck oil facilities and the airport in Abu Dhabi, killing two Indians and a Pakistani, and wounding six other people.

The attack was the first deadly assault acknowledged by the UAE inside its borders and claimed by the Huthis.

In retaliation, the coalition carried out air strikes against rebel-held Sanaa that killed 14 people.

Yemen’s civil war has been a catastrophe for millions of its citizens who have fled their homes, with many close to famine in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

AFP

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My govt will crush terrorists, Buhari reassures Kaduna residents

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The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Friday, has reassured residents of Kaduna of his regime’s determination to crush terrorists and criminal gangs operating in the state and other parts of the country.

Buhari spoke late Friday in Kaduna at the State Banquet organised by Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i to commemorate his official visit to the state.

The President, who commended the state’s support to security agencies, noted the establishment of a ministry dedicated to internal security.

He said, ‘‘I wish to assure the people and government of Kaduna State that the Federal Government is doing its utmost to contain and crush the terrorists menacing our citizens and their property in parts of the country. On behalf of the Federal Government, I commend the efforts of the Kaduna State Government to respond to the demands of development.

‘‘The relationship between our tiers of government represents an instance of successful collaboration between the national and State governments for progress, peace and prosperity. I urge Malam Nasir El-Rufai to push on and not relent in his efforts to accelerate change and progress in Kaduna State.”

Reviewing his programme in the State since he arrived on Wednesday night, Buhari expressed delight over the commissioning of projects undertaken by the State government.

‘‘Most of my visits to Kaduna State since 2015 have been in connection with clear strides of progress. I was here in 2017 to commission the hatchery and feed mill project of Olam, a multinational agribusiness company that has sited a major factory in Kaduna. In August 2019, I had the honour to commission Phase 2 of the Zaria Water Project and a road project.

‘‘Therefore, I am not surprised that Nasir El-Rufai and his team have undertaken such a major investment in infrastructure development. I am glad to say I have seen with my own eyes the remarkable changes across all the three Senatorial zones,’’ he said.

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Akwa Ibom targets N43.8bn IGR in 2022

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The Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service on Friday said it planned to generate over N43.8bn as IGR for the 2022 fiscal year.

The Executive Chairman of the agency, Okon Okon, who disclosed this while speaking at the 2022 strategy session in Uyo, assured that the organisation would design strategies to deliver on the target and possibly improve on it.

Okon stated that the agency’s focus for the year under review would cover areas such as data/analytics, tax intelligence, automation/digital capability, capacity building, new streams, maritime/oil and gas, and re-structuring to improve efficiency.

He said, “The state-wide IGR target this year (2022) is ₦43.8bn. As I said during the public hearing on the 2022 budget at the House of Assembly, let me reiterate that we will at this session design a strategy to ensure that we deliver on this target and invariably improve our commonwealth, development and prosperity.”

He stated that the main focus last year was on implementing version 2.0 of its corporate transformation agenda code-named Revenue and Institutional Transformation Agenda.

According to him, the agenda saw massive investment in the training of employees, engagement of revenue stakeholders and strengthening the Joint State Revenue Committee in a bid to ensure optimum collection of taxes in the state.

“In keeping with our commitment to ensuring that enough revenue is generated for the ‘Completion Agenda’ of Governor Udom Emmanuel, we collaborated with the Federal Road Safety Corps, Ministry of Transport and security agencies in the state to carry out enforcement of road taxes.

“During that week-long enforcement exercise, our team deployed technology in the verification of motor licences and that effort yielded tremendous positive results,” Okon added.

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