Saudi-led coalition says Yemen civilians including children killed in air strike was by mistake

The Saudi-led Arab military coalition on Saturday admitted responsibility for an air strike the previous day in the Yemeni capital that killed 14 civilians, describing it as a “technical mistake”.
A man carries Buthaina Muhammad Mansour, believed to be four or five, rescued from the site of a Saudi-led air strike that killed eight of her family members in Sanaa, Yemen August 25, 2017.(REUTERS Photo)
A man carries Buthaina Muhammad Mansour, believed to be four or five, rescued from the site of a Saudi-led air strike that killed eight of her family members in Sanaa, Yemen August 25, 2017.(REUTERS Photo)
Updated on Aug 27, 2017 12:37 AM IST
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Agence France-Presse, Riyadh | ByAgence France-Presse

The Saudi-led Arab military coalition on Saturday admitted responsibility for an air strike the previous day in the Yemeni capital that killed 14 civilians, describing it as a “technical mistake”.

The attack was the latest in a wave of deadly raids on residential areas of Yemen blamed on the coalition, drawing strong international condemnation.

The coalition, in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, said a review of the strike investigators had found “that a technical mistake was behind the accident”.

Witnesses and medics in Sanaa said several children were among 14 people killed in Friday’s air strike that toppled residential blocks in Sanaa.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki had told AFP on Friday that he would “review the information” about the strike.

On Saturday, he said in the statement that the coalition “regrets the collateral damage caused by this involuntary accident and offers its condolences to the families and relatives of the victims”.

Friday’s raid targeted Faj Attan, a residential neighbourhood in the south of the capital that has been controlled since 2014 by Huthi rebels.

The coalition on Saturday accused the rebels of “setting up a command and communications centre in the middle of this residential area to use civilians as human shields”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross on Friday condemned the raid as “outrageous”.

Rights group Amnesty International’s Middle East research director, Lynn Maalouf, said the coalition “rained down bombs on civilians while they slept”.

She called in a statement for the UN to take action against Saudi Arabia over the list of civilian facilities struck in deadly air raids over the past two years.

Mohammed Ahmad, who lived in one of the buildings, said he was among those who had taken nine bodies to a hospital.

“We extracted them one by one from under the rubble,” he said.

Diggers worked at the site for hours after the raid as medics and residents searched for the missing.

- International pressure -

The coalition entered Yemen’s war in 2015 in support of the government against the Iran-backed rebels, who seized Sanaa the previous year after forming a fragile alliance with troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 8,400 civilians have been killed and 47,800 wounded since the Saudi-led alliance intervened in the Yemen conflict.

Friday’s raid came two days after at least 35 people died in a series of strikes on Sanaa and a nearby hotel that rebels also blamed on the coalition.

The coalition has come under massive pressure from international organisations including the United Nations over the raids.

The UN has said the coalition was probably responsible for a July attack on the southwestern Taez province that killed 20 people, including children.

“In the week from August 17 to August 24, 58 civilians have been killed, including 42 by the Saudi-led coalition,” UN human rights office spokeswoman Liz Throssell told reporters in Geneva on Friday.

Yemen, long the poorest country in the Arab world, also faces a deadly cholera outbreak that has claimed nearly 2,000 lives and affected more than half a million people since late April.

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