The Arab coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen has denied targeting civilians after air strikes hit a market northeast of the capital Sanaa, reportedly killing at least 40 people.
Saturday’s attacks in the Nehm district in Sanaa province also wounded 30 people, residents had told Reuters news agency, adding that most of the casualties were civilians.
But Brigadier-General Ahmed Asseri, spokesperson for the coalition, said on Sunday the casualty reports were fabricated by the Houthis.
The coalition targeted a barracks occupied by the Houthis and troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, he said.
The Arab coalition, assembled by Saudi Arabia, is battling the Iran-allied Shia Houthis in an attempt to restore the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Asseri said the targeted area had no civilians and was mostly occupied by the rebels.
“We know that these are the kind of tactics used by the militias when they are under pressure, and they start launching lies in the media,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Today we know that most of the agencies who reported this don’t have any reporters on the ground. They said they took this information from local security agents and we know in Sanaa today … there are no official people who can report.”
On the ground, residents said unidentified assailants in Aden fatally shot a prominent Muslim leader, Abdulrahman al-Adani, as he was heading to a mosque for afternoon prayers.
He was known for his stand against the Houthi rebels as well as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and al-Qaeda’s Arabian Peninsula branch, local sources said.
Al-Qaeda and ISIL have stepped up attacks in Aden despite the efforts of the Hadi government and its backers.
In another sign of growing unrest in Aden, clashes broke out near the entrance to the presidential palace in the port city’s Crater district between presidential guards and soldiers demanding their salaries, an official told AFP news agency.
The fighting spread to nearby residential districts and there were casualties, the official and residents said.
The Houthis and their allies had driven the Hadi government out of Sanaa and much of northern Yemen by September 2014.
They controlled Aden for months before government loyalists pushed them out in July and declared the city the country’s provisional capital.
Because of the unrest gripping Aden, Hadi himself and many senior officials in his government spend most of their time in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.