Published: Sat, March 18, 2017
World | By Carl Welch

Dozens of Somali refugees killed off Yemen coast

At least 31 Somali refugees are dead after the boat they were traveling in from Yemen to Sudan was attacked by what might have been a USA -made Apache helicopter.

A local coastguard officer told Reuters that "the refugees, carrying official [United Nations Refugee Agency] documents, were on their way from Yemen to Sudan when they were attacked by an Apache helicopter near the Bab al-Mandeb strait".

A sailor who had been operating the boat, Ibrahim Ali Zeyad, said 80 refugees had been rescued.

It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack, although Saudi forces are known to deploy Apache helicopters as part of their air campaign in support of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

He said about 75 men and 15 women who survived the attack were taken to detention centres, and some bodies were laid in a fish market in the town of Hodeida because of a lack of space in mortuaries.

Saudi spokesperson General Ahmed al-Asseri justified the attack by claiming the area, Hudaida, is "illegally" under the control of the rebels.

It called on all sides in Yemen's war to protect civilians.

Crowds stand near a bodies of dead Somali refugees in Yemen.

"If approved, this [arms] deal would essentially have President Trump throwing gasoline on a house fire and locking the door on his way out", Margaret Huang, Amnesty International USA executive director, said in a statement.

He described a scene of panic in which the refugees held up flashlights, apparently to show that they were poor migrants.

Mohammed was not hurt in the attack.

The spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told a media briefing in Geneva the number of deaths may be more than 31.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said it was "deeply distressed" by the casualties and called for all parties in the Yemeni civil war to protect civilians in accordance with worldwide law.

Yemen has been suffering from a civil war and a Saudi-led military intervention for around two years.

Riyadh's coalition against Yemen, which includes Bahrain, began its military campaign against the impoverished countries in late March 2015.

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