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Amnesty Calls for Halt to Arms Sales to Saudi-led Coalition

FILE - A UAE navy soldier patrols at Al-Mokha port in Yemen, March 6, 2018.

An international rights group urged Western governments on Wednesday to stop supplying weapons to parties to the conflict in Yemen after reports that they were ending up in the hands of extremist groups.

Amnesty International's arms control and human rights researcher Patrick Wilcken said in a statement that "the proliferation of unaccountable, UAE-backed militias is worsening the humanitarian crisis and posing a growing threat to the civilian population."

Wilcken said American and British weapons have ended up in the hands of al-Qaida and Islamic State militants, in reference to recent reports by the Amman-based Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism. The United Arab Emirates has not commented on the allegations.

The Saudi-led coalition, which includes the United Arab Emirates, has been at war in Yemen with Iran-aligned Houthi rebels since 2015.

An Associated Press report last August uncovered deals struck between the coalition and al-Qaida, during which weapons and cash passed from Gulf commanders and their allies to al-Qaida-linked militants fighting alongside them against the rebels.

Germany, the Netherlands and Norway have restricted arms deals to coalition members, while several other Western countries, including the U.S. and Britain, have continued supplying weapons.

The war in Yemen has left thousands of deaths and injuries and displaced over 3 million people. Peace talks, restarted in Sweden last year, have yet to achieve a major breakthrough.

Houthi and Yemeni government representatives are holding meetings in Jordan on a prisoner exchange agreed to in Sweden that has yet to be carried out. Each side is requesting more prisoners than the other claims to be holding.

A U.N. monitor is also meeting with the warring parties, in a ship moored off Yemen's Red Sea coast, to agree on a plan for a Houthi withdrawal from Hodeida, a strategic port city controlling access to the country's north.