At least 33 refugees killed by airstrike off the coast of Yemen

Published March 18th, 2017 - 06:00 GMT
A picture taken on March 17, 2017, shows bodies of people who were killed in a boat carrying Somali refugees arriving in the rebel-held Yemeni port city of Hodeida. (AFP/Stringer)
A picture taken on March 17, 2017, shows bodies of people who were killed in a boat carrying Somali refugees arriving in the rebel-held Yemeni port city of Hodeida. (AFP/Stringer)

Thirty-three migrants, mainly Somalis, were reportedly killed when an airstrike hit their ship off Yemen's western coast, aid agencies said on Friday.

The attack late Thursday on the ship, which was carrying around 150 people, left 29 wounded, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRS) reported.

Other passengers are either still missing or in the care of local authorities, the ICRC added.

"It was a gruesome and heartbreaking scene. I saw many men, women and children either killed or horribly wounded,” ICRC’s Eric Christopher Wyss said after arriving at the scene.

“Survivors told us that many of the passengers were refugees from Somalia or Yemen, fleeing conflict.”

Yemen has been locked in a devastating conflict between the Saudi-backed government and Iran-allied rebels since late 2014.

Earlier Friday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said 31 migrants were reportedly killed in the incident.

Some 80 survivors were brought to Yemeni hospitals, a spokesman for the aid and advocacy organization told reporters in Geneva, citing reports by IOM staff in Yemen.

It was not immediately clear who had carried out the attack.

Hodeidah is mostly controlled by Houthi rebels, who seized the capital Sana'a and surrounding areas in late 2014.

The struck boat was heading from an area near Bab al-Mandab Strait up to Sudan, Daoud Fadel, a security official at the province's fishing port, said.

He told dpa that it was a military helicopter, part of a Saudi-led alliance that has been fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen for almost two years.

So far, there has been no comment from the alliance.

In recent years, Yemenis have tried to escape the armed conflict in their country by using small fishing boats to cross the waterway, which connects the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean, where many of the world's oil shipments pass.

Most Yemenis escape to the south, heading to Djibouti, while African migrants tend to travel north towards the Mediterranean, in order to head to Europe. Others try to cross into Israel, through Egypt.

Yemen's conflict has intensified since late March 2015, when the Houthis first advanced on the southern city of Aden, prompting Saudi Arabia and Sunni allies to start an air campaign against the Shiite group.

The United States has often mounted air raids targeting members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the al-Qaeda terrorist network's local branch in Yemen.

Yemen’s state news agency SABA reported that at least 22 people were killed Friday after rebels attacked a mosque in the eastern province of Mareb.

An unspecified number of worshippers were also injured in the rocket attack, the agency added.

Houthi rebels fired three Katyusha rockets at the mosque where government soldiers were performing the congregational Friday prayer, a local security official said.

At least 15 were dead and 36 injured in the attack, the official told dpa on condition of anonymity.

In recent months, pro-government forces have wrested back large parts of Mareb from rebels.


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