Human Rights Watch (HRW) says a recent deadly aerial aggression on a boat carrying Somali refugees off the coast of Yemen, “apparently” carried out by the Saudi-led military coalition, likely amounts to “war crime.”
According to a statement released by the HRW on Sunday, at least 32 people lost their lives and nearly 30 others were injured after an apparent Saudi airstrike hit a boat, crammed with 145 Somali refugees, near Bab al-Mandeb Strait in the Red Sea on the evening of March 16. Preliminary estimates by the United Nations’ refugee agency, the UNHCR, however, put the fatalities at 42.
“The coalition’s apparent firing on a boat filled with fleeing refugees is only the latest likely war crime in Yemen’s two-year-long war,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East director at the HRW, adding that “reckless disregard for the lives of civilians has reached a new level of depravity.”
Riyadh and its allies, however, have denied carrying out the airstrike despite witness accounts citing an Apache helicopter – which is only used by Saudi Arabia in the war on Yemen – to have attacked the vessel.
“All of a sudden, I saw a helicopter above us. … They attacked abruptly. … When they kept firing at us, those of us who spoke Arabic kept saying, ‘We are Somalis!’” the statement quoted a young survived Somali refugee as saying.