Two Red Cross employees were shot dead in the northern Yemeni province of Amran by an unknown attacker on Wednesday, the international aid group said, in a rare case of violence against humanitarian workers in a five-month war.
The pair were Yemeni nationals and returning from aid work in the far northern province of Saada, said Adnan Hizam, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
“Two of our colleagues were shot and killed in their car … as they were traveling back from Saada to Sanaa,” Hizam said from the capital Sanaa.
A statement from the group identified the murdered employees as a field officer and a driver, adding that they believed a lone gunman was responsible, but the reason for the attack remained unclear.
“The ICRC condemns in the strongest possible terms what appears to have been the deliberate targeting of our staff,” said the head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen, Antoine Grand.
Yemen has been mired in violence since Shia rebels, known as Houthis, swept down from their stronghold in Saada and captured Sanaa last September. The conflict transformed into a civil war after a coalition of Sunni Arab states led by Saudi Arabia intervened to prevent the Houthis from expanding their territorial grip and to reinstate the country’s government from its exile in Riyadh.
Both Amran and Saada are fully controlled by the Houthis and have been battered by the Saudi-led air strikes.
Last week, the ICRC said it had temporarily stopped work in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden after its office was raided by unidentified gunmen a day earlier.
The war has caused a major humanitarian crisis in the already impoverished country, which has been cut off from the outside world as air and seaports shut down amid fighting.
With a collapse of the central government and health services throughout Yemen, aid agencies have become a critical source of food and medicine.
More than 4,500 people have so far been killed in the war in Yemen, which even before the latest conflict was one of the poorest countries in the Middle East. Of those killed, more than 2,100 were civilians, according to the U.N.