Yemen wedding strike toll rises

  • 30/09/2015
Saudi wedding strike (Reuters)
Saudi wedding strike (Reuters)

By Jamal al-Jabiri

The death toll from an alleged air strike on a Yemeni wedding has soared to 131, as the Saudi-led coalition denied it was behind the incident.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned Monday's reported bombardment, saying intentional attacks on civilians were considered a "serious violation of international humanitarian law".

Residents said the Arab coalition, which launched an air war on the Huthi Shi'ite rebels in late March, was behind the attack on the wedding in Wahijah village, near the Red Sea city of Mokha.

But the spokesman for the Riyadh-based coalition, Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri, denied any involvement.

"The coalition did not conduct any air strikes in the area over the past three days," he said.

The coalition called for an independent investigation.

"We can prove by satellite that we did not fly over that zone," a coalition source said.

The death toll rose to 131 on Tuesday after "more bodies were taken overnight to hospital and many of the wounded succumbed to their injuries", a health official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

Previously the toll had been at least 40 dead and dozens wounded.

A doctor at Mokha's Al-Reefi Hospital, Mayaz al-Hamadi, confirmed that 131 bodies, including women and children, had been brought in.

"Many bodies are laid on the floor because the hospital does not have the means" to accommodate the large number of fatalities, he said.

The United Nations said it was trying to verify the death toll.

"If the numbers are as high as suggested, this may be the single deadliest incident since the start of the conflict," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Ban urged all rival sides in Yemen "to immediately cease all military activities and resolve all differences through peaceful negotiations".