Saudi used US-made cluster bombs in Yemen market attacks
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Saudi Arabia used US-made cluster bombs in two recent airstrikes on a busy market in Yemen, which killed scores of civilians.
The March 15 bombing targeting the northwestern town of Mastaba marked the second-deadliest airstrike conducted by the Saudi campaign since it began its war in March 2015.
The strike also wounded at least 47 people and left charred bodies lying next to flour sacks and twisted metal.
Human Rights Watch said Thursday its investigators traveled to the town in Yemen’s Hajjah province the day after the attack and listed the names of 97 civilians killed in the strike, including 25 children.
The team said that another 10 bodies were burned beyond recognition, bringing the total number of victims to 107.
They found fragments of a GBU-31 satellite-guided bomb as well as its guidance equipment supplied by the US, matching an earlier report by British television channel ITV.
“One of the deadliest strikes against civilians in Yemen’s year-long war involved US-supplied weapons, illustrating tragically why countries should stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia,” Priyanka Motaparthy, emergencies researcher at HRW, said.
“The US and other coalition allies should send a clear message to Saudi Arabia that they want no part in unlawful killings of civilians,” she said.
Motaparthy said, “Even after dozens of airstrikes on markets, schools, hospitals, and residential neighborhoods have killed hundreds of Yemeni civilians, the coalition refuses to provide redress or change its practices.”
“The US and others should pull the plug on arms to the Saudis or further share responsibility for civilian lives lost.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Bahrain on a trip to the region, declined to comment specifically on the report while speaking to reporters Thursday.
“I don’t have any solid information, any documentation with respect to what weapon might have been used,” Kerry said.
Since March 26, 2015, Yemen has been under military attacks by Saudi Arabia with the declared aim of restoring power to former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
On Thursday, Kerry criticized Hadi for decisions in the “last few hours” that have set back mediation efforts to secure a ceasefire in the Yemen war. The top American diplomat did not elaborate.
The US has backed the Saudi campaign in Yemen. In November, Washington approved a $1.29 billion rearming program for Riyadh, including thousands of similar bombs.
The Saudi campaign in Yemen has been increasingly criticized by human rights activists over civilian deaths.
According to the UN, airstrikes account for 60% of the civilians killed in the conflict, which have also hit markets, clinics and hospitals.
Nearly 9,400 people, among them over 2,230 children, have been killed and over 16,000 others injured since the onset of the military raids.