Saudi-led coalition targets Yemen jail, 100 dead: ICRC

Sanaa, September 1

More than 100 persons are believed to have been killed when the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels launched an air strike on a detention centre in Yemen, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Sunday.

“We estimate over 100 people were killed,” Franz Rauchenstein, head of delegation for the ICRC in Yemen, said after he travelled to the city of Dhamar where the air strikes hit. He said at least 40 survivors were being treated for their injuries in hospitals in the city, which lies south of the capital Sanaa.

Yemen’s bloody civil war erupted in September 2014, when the Houthis swept into the capital city of Sanaa. The Saudi-led coalition intervened half a year later to back the internationally recognised government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The strike occurred as Sweden’s Foreign Minister was holding talks in Jordan on Sunday, part of her attempt to relaunch talks between Hadi’s government and the Iran-backed Houthis and break the war’s long stalemate.

The Saudi-led military coalition said earlier that it launched air strikes against a Huthi military target that “stores drones and missiles”.

However, the Houthi television channel Al-Masirah said that “dozens were killed and injured” in seven air strikes that hit a building the rebels used as a prison. The ICRC has sent medical teams and hundreds of body bags to Dhamar, saying that it had visited detainees at the location before.

“As we speak, the teams are working relentlessly to find survivors under the rubble” and are “currently collecting bodies,” Rauchenstein said, adding that the chances of finding anyone else alive in the heavy debris “are very low”. The coalition, which has come under criticism by international rights groups for air strikes that have killed civilians, said it had taken measures to protect civilians in Dhamar and the assault complied with international law.

The Western-backed alliance intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Houthis after they ousted the internationally recognised government from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014.

The movement, which holds most major population centres in the Arabian Peninsula nation, has stepped up cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent months. The Saudi-led alliance has responded with strikes on Houthi targets. — Agencies