Death toll at wedding party in Yemen rises to 131
Sanaa, Yemen — The death toll from airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition that hit a wedding party in Yemen’s Taiz province has risen to 131, Yemeni medical officials said Tuesday.
Details about the strikes, which took place Monday, were sketchy but a U.N. official said that if confirmed, the high death toll would make it one of the deadliest incidents in the conflict.
At least 80 women were among the dead, said the Yemeni medical officials, who work in the province and have been neutral in the conflict that has torn their country apart. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.
The Saudi-led coalition apparently struck the wedding party by mistake in al-Wahga, a village near the strategic Strait of Bab al-Mandab, according to Yemeni security officials.
Rupert Colville, spokesman for the office of the U.N. human rights chief, said that “if the numbers are as high as suggested, this may be the single deadliest incident since the start of the conflict.”
Officials from the Saudi-led coalition could not immediately be reached for comment.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon condemned the airstrikes, which he said “killed as many as 135 people” and called on all parties involved in the conflict in Yemen, “from inside and outside the country, to immediately cease all military activities.”
Yemen has been embroiled in fighting that pits the rebels, known as Houthis, and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against the Saudi-backed and internationally recognized government as well as southern separatists, local militias and Sunni extremists. The U.S.-backed coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against the rebels and their allies since March.
The office of the U.N. human rights chief says 151 civilians have been killed in fighting in Yemen over two weeks in September, taking the civilian death toll to 2,355 over the last six months. The figure, which dates to Sept. 24, does not include the casualties from the wedding party strikes.
The office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights cited both sides in the conflict, including a Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s government, as well as the Shiite rebels and others. Colville pointed to coalition airstrikes and “indiscriminate” shelling in residential areas.
The U.N. office also the Saudi-led coalition and Yemen’s government to allow “independent and impartial” investigations in Yemen.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.