Saudi-led coalition announces probe into Yemen prison attack

Saudi-led coalition says it will investigate attack on a prison in Saada, northern Yemen, last week that killed dozens of people.

Detention center that has recently been targeted by air strikes in Saada, Yemen
View of the detention centre in Saada after it was hit in an air raid [Naif Rahma/Reuters]

A Saudi-led coalition accused of a deadly attack on a prison in northern Yemen last week has said it is investigating the incident after denying it launched an air raid.

The coalition has said it was not behind Friday’s attack on a detention centre in the Houthi rebel heartland of Saada, in which at least 70 people were killed, according to the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF).

The Houthi movement said at least 91 people were killed and more than 200 others wounded in the air raid.

The Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT), set up by the coalition, which claims it operates independently, said it was following up on the matter in its “commitment to professionalism, transparency, impartiality and credibility”, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

“From the first hours after news of the incident broke, the relevant team began investigation procedures and collecting data and documents pertaining to it,” it said on Thursday.

“The results will be announced as soon as the investigation wraps up.”

Saudi-led coalition has carried out deadly air raids in Saada and the port city of Hodeida
Saudi-led coalition has carried out deadly air raids in Saada and the port city of Hodeidah [Al Jazeera]

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in the Yemeni civil war in 2015 to support the government against the Houthi rebels.

A member of MSF accused the coalition of being behind the Saada air raid.

“There is no way to deny that this is an air strike, everyone in Saada city heard it,” an unnamed member of the aid agency was quoted as saying in a statement late on Saturday.

The Houthis condemned the air raid as a war crime against humanity, and called on the world to “take responsibility”.

The International Rescue Committee also condemned the air raid, saying it was the worst civilian casualty incident in three years.

“Additional attacks risk harming more civilians and will further restrict humanitarian organisations’ access to those most in need,” IRC said in a statement on Wednesday.

The United Nations has called for an investigation into the incident.

“The secretary-general calls for prompt, effective and transparent investigations into these incidents to ensure accountability,” Antonio Guterres’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said.

On Wednesday, human rights group Amnesty International said the coalition “used a precision-guided munition made in the United States” in the attack that hit the prison.

The intensification of attacks on Yemen came after the Houthis claimed responsibility for a drone and missile attack on Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates on January 17, killing three civilians.

The attack marked a major escalation in the conflict in Yemen where the Saudi-led coalition, with the UAE as a member, has been carrying out air raids since 2015.

Since the intervention of the Saudi-led coalition, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed directly or indirectly and millions of people are on the brink of famine, according to the UN, which has described the situation as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies