Sunday 17 December 2017

Helicopter attack on boat full of Somali refugees leaves 40 dead

People carry the body of a Somali refugee, killed in a helicopter attack while travelling in a vessel off Yemen. Photo: Reuters
People carry the body of a Somali refugee, killed in a helicopter attack while travelling in a vessel off Yemen. Photo: Reuters

Lizzie Dearden Beirut

More than 40 Somali refugees have been killed in an attack on a boat off the coast of Yemen while attempting to flee the country's brutal civil war. Coastguard authorities in the Houthi rebel stronghold of Hodeida said a helicopter gunship attacked the vessel they were travelling on in the Red Sea.

A Yemeni people smuggler who survived the attack said the boat had set sail overnight, aiming to cross to Sudan. Al-Hassan Ghaleb Mohammed said women and children were among his passengers from the port of Ras Arra, along the southern coastline in Yemen's Hodeida province. He said that their boat had reached around 50km from shore when the helicopter gunship approached and opened fire, sparking panic on board.

Migrants finally managed to hold up torches to show they were civilians, when he said the helicopter stopped firing.

Photos too graphic to publish showed the bodies of women and men in civilian clothes lying on top of one another in the partially destroyed boat, their belongings splattered with blood. Children were believed to be among the dead.

Mohamed al-Alay, a coastguard official, told Reuters the refugees, carrying official UN documents, were attacked by an Apache helicopter near the Bab-el-Mandeb strait. Houthi rebels accused the Saudi-led air coalition of carrying out the attack, following heavy bombardment in the area, where it accuses Shia fighters of smuggling weapons in small boats.

The International Organisation for Migration said at least 42 people had been killed and dozens injured on the boat, which had 140 people on board. (© London Independent)

Irish Independent

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