Yemen: Survivors slam Saudi coalition attack on detention centre

Survivors of detention centre air raids denounce the attack as yet ‘another crime’.

Relatives of victims inspect bodies of people killed by air strikes in Saada, Yemen
Relatives look for their loved ones among the bodies of victims killed by air raids that hit a detention centre in Saada [Naif Rahma/Reuters]

Yemeni detainee Mohammed Ali Salem was lucky a missile fired by warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition on the next ward caused a wave strong enough to shatter the door of his cell.

That was how he was able to escape before a second bomb fell.

“When they struck Ward 8… the door opened from the pressure and we walked out. God granted us safety, thank God,” he said, recounting the dawn attacks that targeted the detention centre where he was held on Friday.

Others, wrapped in white body bags, were not that lucky. At least 80 people were killed when missiles hit a detention centre in the Yemeni province of Saada, the stronghold of the Houthi group that has been at war with a Saudi-led coalition since 2015.

Save the Children said in a statement three children were also reportedly killed by air raids on Friday in the western city of Hodeidah.

Detention center that has recently been targeted by air strikes in Saada, Yemen
View of the detention centre that was targeted by Saudi coalition air raids [Naif Rahma/Reuters]

The raids, which followed missile and drone attacks on the United Arab Emirates on January 17, have caused an international uproar and brought back attention to a forgotten and deadly conflict.

The Saudi-led coalition denied on Saturday targeting the detention centre and added that it was not on no-targeting lists agreed upon with the United Nations and did not meet the standards stipulated by the Third Geneva Convention for Prisoners of War, according to the state news agency.

The attacks, the deadliest in more than two years, came amid an unprecedented escalation in the seven-year conflict with clashes raging over the control of Yemen’s oil-rich regions Shabwa and Marib, and an uptick in cross-border attacks.

The missile attacks on Abu Dhabi followed dozens of similar attacks on Saudi Arabian cities with armed drones and ballistic missiles.

In Saada, hundreds of people gathered around lined-up body bags on Saturday near the concrete rubble of the detention centre, seeking information about their relatives. Some were checking the bodies hoping to identify their loved ones.

People gather to protest outside a detention center targeted by air strikes in Saada, Yemen
People gather to protest outside the detention centre in Saada [Naif Rahma/Reuters]

“We came from Amran province on a visit to find out that the prison has been hit by warplanes. This is another crime to be added to their other crimes,” said Salman Badi, one of the relatives.

Sultan al-Qahim, whose face was burned in the attack, said he lost consciousness after a third bomb fell.

“I was sitting with my mates in our ward and then the warplane came and hit with a first strike. And a while later, two more hit. After that, nothing,” he said in the Republican hospital in Saada, where most of the wounded have been treated.

The United Nations has called for “prompt, effective and transparent investigations into these incidents to ensure accountability”.

Source: Reuters