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Yemen: Saudi-led coalition denies responsibility for wedding airstrike that killed 135

By Fred Lambert
Yemen: Saudi-led coalition denies responsibility for wedding airstrike that killed 135
Yemenis gather around a crater left following a reported airstrike March 28 in the capital, Sanaa, on the third day of Saudi-led coalition airstrikes against Houthis. The Saudi-led coalition on Tuesday, denied responsibility for an airstrike that killed at least 135 people the day prior at a wedding in Mokha, Yemen. Photo by Mohammad Abdullah/UPI | License Photo

MOKHA, Yemen, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- The Saudi-led coalition that has bombed Houthi rebels in Yemen since March denied responsibility for an airstrike on a wedding that killed at least 135 people Monday.

Witnesses say missiles hit two tents in the city of Mokha, west of Aden on the Red Sea coast, where a man linked to the Houthi movement was celebrating his marriage.

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Earlier reports suggested at least 35 people died in the strike, mostly women and children, but the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights updated the number to at least 135 or more people, a number echoed by local medical sources.

"There have been no air operations by the coalition in that area for three days," the BBC quoted a coalition spokesman as saying Tuesday. "This is totally false news."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday condemned the airstrike and expressed "his deepest condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims and a swift recovery to those injured," a spokesman said in a statement.

"The Secretary-General has consistently stated that there is no military solution to the conflict in Yemen," the statement reads. "Its continuation will only bring more human suffering and destruction."

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At least 5,000 people have been killed in Yemen since late March, when Saudi Arabia formed a coalition to begin conducting airstrikes against the Houthis. The insurgents had since last year pushed into southern Yemen from the north, seizing the capital, Sanaa, and forcing President Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi to seek refuge in Riyadh.

Hadi returned to Yemen last week, setting up a temporary base in the southern port city of Aden, which allied militiamen re-captured with help from coalition ground troops -- some reportedly from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia -- in July.

The same day, Saudi Arabia announced two of its soldiers had gone missing in Yemen and were believed to be in the custody of the Houthis.

The BBC quoted UNHCR spokesman Rupert Colville as saying that Monday's airstrike "may be the single deadliest incident since the start of the conflict."

The U.N. Secretary-General's office condemned the "disregard shown by all sides for human life" in the Yemeni conflict and noted that an "attack against civilians is considered a serious violation of international humanitarian law."

"The secretary-general, therefore, again calls on all parties involved in the Yemeni conflict, from inside and outside the country, to immediately cease all military activities and resolve all differences through peaceful negotiations facilitated by his special envoy," the statement reads.

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