CAIRO – An investigation team with the Saudi-led coalition said on Saturday that wrong information led to the lethal bombing of a packed funeral in the Yemeni capital Sanaa last weekend, which killed around 140 people and wounded more than 600.
The Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) accused “a party affiliated to the Yemeni Presidency of the General Chief of Staff” of passing wrong information that the hall was packed with Houthi leaders, whom the coalition has been targeting since their militias swept the capital last year and forced Yemen’s internationally-recognized government into exile in Riyadh.
It added that the party insisted the location was “a legitimate military target,” the statement written in English said. It also said the Air Operation Center in Yemen directed a “close air support mission” to target the site without getting approval from the coalition’s command. The committee said compensation must be offered to the victims’ families.
“JIAT has found that because of non-compliance with Coalition rules of engagement (ROEs) and procedures, and the issuing of incorrect information a Coalition aircraft wrongly targeted the location, resulting in civilian deaths and injuries,” it said.
This is the first time the coalition acknowledges it was behind the bombing, after an initial denial. The Yemeni government in Riyadh led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi made no public comment on the bombing of the funeral.
The statement gave no clear indication of which party provided the information. The Yemeni Chief of Staff is Maj. Gen. Mohammed Ali al-Maqdishi, who is close to the powerful army general Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar — now serving as a vice-president and a top ally to Yemen’s Muslim Brotherhood-tribal and political arm.
The investigation team called on the coalition to “immediately review their rules of engagement.”
The US-backed coalition, which accuses Houthis of being proxies to Iran, has come under heavy international pressure to investigate the bombing. The Human Rights Watch rights group said in a report Thursday that the bombing constitutes an apparent war crime and said remnants of a US-made bomb were found at the site of the strikes.
Along with arms, the United States provides the coalition with logistical support and mid-air refuelling of its warplanes and has faced a backlash after the bombing. The White House said it will immediately review its assistance to the Saudi-led coalition and that such assistance is not a “blank check.”
The coalition’s bombing of the hall is not the first attack on civilians by warplanes. Over the past year, busy markets, weddings, schools, and hospitals have been bombed, resulting in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries.
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