Saudi-led Yemen market strike kills 33 rebels

Tribal chief says most people killed in Saudi-led Yemen market strike that left at least 41 people dead where rebels not civilians

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

A man steps out of his shop damaged by a Saudi-led air strike in Yemeni capital Sanaa on January 4, 2016.

Updated Mar 16, 2016

A Yemeni tribal chief said on Wednesday that 33 of the 41 people killed in a Saudi-led air strike on a market in a northern province were rebels, not civilians as first reported.

A health official in Hajja said on Tuesday that the casualties were civilians and included children, adding that "the toll could rise."

Also a health official had said before that the dead were civilians.

But on Wednesday a tribal chief, close to Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels, said that 33 of those were "fighters."

"The fighters [rebels] were riding in three vehicles at a military camp that was hit by three air raids," the chief told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that Saudi-led warplanes then hit the market when the Houthis arrived there.

Local officials and tribal sources told AFP that coalition warplanes conducted several raids on the market in the town of Mustabaa.

In Riyadh, Brigadier General Ahmed al Assiri, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said it was "a militia gathering."

An official at a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Tuesday that the facility had received the bodies of 41 people killed in the raids, along with 35 people who were wounded.

But the charity disputed the claim on Wednesday.

"MSF's hospital in the region received 44 people wounded in the incident, two of whom died," the group's Yemen project coordinator, Juan Prieto, said.

But a rebel-run news website set the death toll as 65 and the number of injured as 55.

"It's difficult to obtain precise information," said a Red Cross spokeswoman Rima Kamal.

Daily air strikes by the coalition are trying to rout the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and restore the internationally recognised government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

President Hadi is based in Aden, Yemen's second largest city, where his embattled government is trying to project its authority after government troops backed by Arab forces recaptured it back from Houthis in July.

Rights groups have repeatedly urged the coalition to avoid causing civilian casualties.

The World Health Organization says more than 6,200 people have been killed in the conflict since March 2015 and the United Nations has warned of a "human catastrophe unfolding in Yemen."