The Latest: 42 dead in air attack on refugee boat near Yemen

March 17, 2017 - 11:58 am

GENEVA (AP) — The Latest on the conflict in Yemen and the attack on a refugee boat off its Red Sea coast that killed more than 40 people (all times local):

5 p.m.

A top official with the U.N.'s migration agency says 42 bodies have been recovered following a military attack on a boat carrying refugees off the Yemeni coast.

Mohammed Abdiker, emergencies director at the International Organization for Migration in Geneva, says various survivors provided "conflicting messages" about whether the attack came from a military vessel or an attack helicopter that had taken off from the vessel.

Abdiker said Friday the attack at around 3 a.m. was "totally unacceptable" and that responsible combatants should have checked who was aboard the boat "before firing on it."

He said about 75 men and 15 women who survived the attack were taken to detention centers, and some bodies were laid in a fish market in the town of Hodeida because of a lack of space in mortuaries.


1:35 p.m.

A Yemeni man who survived a deadly attack on a boat packed with Somali migrants off the coast of Yemen says their vessel was hit by heavy gunfire from a helicopter gunship.

Al-Hassan Ghaleb Mohammed says the Somalis were trying to escape from war-torn Yemen and cross the Red Sea to get to Sudan in Africa and that he was taking them there the previous night.

The trafficker says the Somalis were all refugees and that there were women and children among them.

Mohammed says the boat had left from a point called Ras Arra, along the southern coastline in Yemen's Hodeida province. He told The Associated Press on Friday in Hodeida their boat had made it to about 48 kilometers, or 30 miles, off the shore of Yemen when it was attacked.

He says when the helicopter gunship opened fire, panic erupted among the refugees. They finally managed to hold up flashlights and show the helicopter they were poor migrants. He says the helicopter then stopped firing but only after more than 30 Somalis had been killed.

Mohammed was not hurt in the attack.

It was not clear who the helicopter belonged to. A Saudi-led coalition, which is conducting an air campaign and fighting alongside Yemen's internationally recognized government, has accused the Shiite Houthi rebels of using Hodeida as a smuggling route for weapons. There was no immediate comment from the coalition.


11:55 a.m.

A U.N. agency says at least 31 people have been killed in attack on a boat carrying Somali migrants off Yemen's Red Sea coast.

The International Organization for Migration's spokesman, Joel Millman, says the agency has learned that at least 80 survivors were taken to hospitals.

A rebel-run news agency in Yemen said earlier Friday that an airstrike in the Red Sea near a key strait of Bab al-Mandab in the Red Sea hit a boat carrying Somali refugees, killing and wounding dozens.

Millman told a U.N. news briefing in Geneva that he was unable to confirm news reports indicating that an Apache helicopter strike was responsible for the attack, which he said happened late on Thursday.

He says: "Our confirmation is that there are dozens of deaths and many dozens of survivors brought to hospitals."


11:25 a.m.

A rebel-run news agency in Yemen says an airstrike in the Red Sea near a key strait has hit a boat carrying Somali refugees, killing and wounding dozens.

The SABA agency, controlled by the Shiite Houthi rebels, says Friday's airstrikes took place off the coast of Hodeida province, close to Bab al-Mandab Strait.

The report says women and children are among the dead. SABA didn't say who carried out the strike. Its report couldn't immediately be confirmed.

The coastal Hodeida province has been under heavy airstrikes over the past two years since an air campaign by a Saudi-led coalition joined the conflict in support of Yemen's internationally-recognized government.

African migrants continue to head to Yemen, a transit point to Saudi Arabia where they seek jobs and a better life.

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