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Scores killed in air strike on funeral hall in Yemen

Published 08/10/2016

Tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels hold their weapons high as they chant slogans during a gathering (AP)
Tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels hold their weapons high as they chant slogans during a gathering (AP)

At least 82 people have been killed in Yemen after an air strike by a Saudi-led coalition targeted a funeral hall packed with mourners.

Another 534 people were wounded after the strike in the capital Sanaa, according to Nasser al-Argaly, the Health Ministry's under-secretary.

Yemeni security and medical officials say the dead and wounded include military and security officials from the ranks of the Shia Houthi rebels fighting the internationally-recognised government of president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, as well as their allies, loyalists of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The Saudi-led coalition backs Mr Hadi's government in Yemen's ongoing civil war.

Among those killed was Maj-Gen Abdul-Qader Hilal, head of the capital's local council, according to the officials.

The funeral was being held for Sheikh Ali al-Rawishan, father of Galal al-Rawishan, the interior minister in the rebel-led government. Galal Al-Rishwan was seriously wounded in the attack.

In the aftermath of the strike, hundreds of body parts were found strewn in and outside the hall.

"The place has been turned into a lake of blood," said one rescuer, Murad Tawfiq.

Ambulances rushed to the site to ferry the wounded to hospitals. In radio broadcasts, the health ministry summoned off-duty doctors and called on residents to donate blood.

Rescuers, meanwhile, sifted through the rubble in search of more casualties, although they were hindered when a fire broke out.

Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the Houthis' spokesman in Sanaa, angrily denounced the air strike as the latest act of "genocide" by the Saudi-led coalition.

"The silence of the United Nations and the international community is the munition of the murderers," he said.

"Those murderers will not escape divine justice."

The Saudi-led coalition backs Mr Hadi's government which, together with its own allies, is fighting the Houthis and Saleh loyalists in a civil war that broke out in 2014.

Roughly 3,799 civilians have been killed since the Saudi-led air campaign began in March of last year, according to a recent report by the UN's human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein.

The UN and rights groups estimate the conflict has claimed the lives of at least 9,000 people and displaced nearly three million more in the Arab world's poorest country.

According to the report, coalition air strikes were responsible for 60% of civilian deaths over a year-long span starting in July last year. Just under one quarter - 475 - civilian deaths were attributed to rebel forces like those loyal to Mr Saleh, and another 113 to affiliates of al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

AP

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