AL-MUKALLA: The bodies of 16 people thought to have been abducted and executed by the Iran-backed Houthis more than a decade ago have been recovered in the northern Yemeni province of Amran.

Human rights groups, media reports, and officials said the bodies were found at a mass grave in a cave in the Harf Sufyan District used by the militia group in 2010 to bury its victims.

Saada, the heartland of Yemen’s militia, and the neighboring Amran province were the sites of six bloody conflicts between the Yemeni army and the Houthis from 2004 to 2010, that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of combatants and civilians.

The Houthis recently admitted kidnapping 16 people, including tribal leaders, from their homes in Amran, accusing them of fighting with Yemen’s armed forces, then executing them and burying their bodies in a cave. The group later revealed the burial site to relatives.

Abdulrahman Berman, a Yemeni human rights advocate and the director of the American Center for Justice, said that tribal leaders, local dignitaries, and relatives of the deceased had staged a sit-in to pressure the Houthis into giving information about what had happened to the abductees.

Yusuf Al-Madani, a senior Houthi military leader, told the gathering that the prisoners had been executed one year after their capture during fighting with the Yemeni government.

Ali Al-Fakih, editor of Al-Masdar Online, told Arab News that the Houthis were attempting to suppress relatives’ anger by paying them millions of riyals.

He said the discovery of the bodies would encourage other people whose relatives had been abducted by the Houthis years ago to call for their whereabouts to be revealed.

“There are unrevealed cases of enforced disappearances and executions to this day. I believe that many similar cases will emerge in the future, and people will be encouraged to search for their loved ones,” Al-Fakih added.