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Watchdog Accuses Yemen Rebels of Taking Hostages, Torture

FILE - A pro-Houthi police trooper stands past a patrol vehicle in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen, June 14, 2018.

An international watchdog is accusing Yemen's Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, of committing "serious abuses" — including "taking hostages, torture and enforced disappearances" — against people they hold in detention.

Human Rights Watch said Tuesday it documented "16 cases in which Houthi authorities held people unlawfully, in large part to extort money from relatives or to exchange them for people held by opposing forces."

It urges the rebels to "stop taking hostages, free everyone arbitrarily detained, end torture and enforced disappearances, and punish those responsible for abuses."

Sarah Leah Whitson of HRW says some Houthi officials "are exploiting their power to turn a profit through detention, torture, and murder."

Yemen's civil war, which started in March 2015, pits Iran-backed Houthis against a Saudi-led coalition backing the country's internationally recognized government.