Yemen journalist Zainab Al-Ali killed in car bombing after refusing to leave vehicle

SANAA, Yemen — A journalist with a pro-rebel Yemeni news website has been killed in a car explosion after refusing to leave her vehicle, according to human rights workers and relatives.

Zainab Al-Ali had already given birth to a daughter, who is now being treated in a London hospital after being injured in the blast in Sanaa.

“She refused to leave her car or talk to anybody. She did not board another car,” a relative said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals against family members who still remain in Yemen. “In the end, the people stopped her. They blew up her car.”

The father of the baby girl told state TV he was rushing back to Yemen and wanted the baby to be transported to the United Kingdom immediately, according to state media. Al-Ali’s 16-year-old sister, Fatima, is pregnant and her own infant son has been taken to Yemen from abroad.

Al-Ali had worked for several years as a correspondent in an English-language daily newspaper, where she covered political news, but left in 2016 in protest of the Yemen war. There had been no trace of her until Tuesday, when she appeared in a video receiving the news that she was pregnant. She issued a statement in support of the political detainees in the current government. She used the name Zainab Al-Ali, but the father’s name was revealed.

“During the eight years that I was working for Al-Shabab, I did not witness a single atrocity, destruction, or terrorist attack in the general zone of Sanaa,” she said. “But now because I was such a powerful voice, an icon of the people, I’m targeted by the criminals and traitors of the Yemeni government.”

“Those who are killing her should know that Yemenis rise from their houses whenever there is any injustice or cruel practices,” she said.

Her father had told Al-Masirah TV that their daughter was the fourth member of the family killed by government forces, following in the footsteps of their mother, a brother and a nephew.

Karen Park, deputy executive director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said she was “shocked and saddened by Zainab’s death,” adding that “researchers at CPJ know Al-Ali as a courageous journalist covering the political unrest in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen.”

“From being an independent media activist in her native Yemen to having two children in London, Zainab and her family stood as voices for the voiceless,” Park said.

Adel al-Zouidi, the editor of a daily newspaper who was Al-Ali’s colleague, said the journalist was at a protest in a Sanaa square when she was killed. At that time, he said the Yemeni government was holding Al-Ali and other journalists for questioning about their coverage of a violent protest in Sanaa two weeks ago.

Al-Ali’s killing comes amid growing tensions in Yemen between the country’s internationally recognized government and the Houthi rebels who seized the capital of Sanaa in 2014 and eventually won over most of the country. The conflict has killed nearly 10,000 people and unleashed what the United Nations has labeled as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The Saudis and Emiratis who support the government have been aiding and supporting Yemeni forces in their campaign against the Houthis and in the support of a broad anti-Houthi coalition, described by some as the world’s most dangerous proxy war. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have also engaged in Yemen’s southern border areas, accusing Houthis of supporting extremist groups and supporting the Islamic State group. The Houthis deny that charge.

Bashiri reported from Beirut.

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