Saudi-led coalition says it’s probing deadly prison strike

Saudi-led coalition says it's probing deadly prison strike
The Saudi Arabia-led coalition says it’s investigating an airstrike on a detention facility in Yemen that killed dozens of people

The Saud Arabia-led coalition at war in Iémen announced Thursday it is investigating an airstrike on a detention facility there that killed dozens of people.

The strike last week on the prison in the north of the country was one of the deadliest single attacks in the yearslong war between the coalition and the Houthi rebeldes. It came as hostilities have increased in recent weeks.

In a statement posted on Saudi Arabia’s state news portal, the coalition’s Joint Incident Assessment Team said it has been gathering information since reports first emerged of the prison being targeted on Jan. 21. The body did not say whether it was coalition planes that carried out the airstrike, as the Houthis have alleged. The coalition did announce a campaign of attacks elsewhere in Yemen in the days around the strike.

The international aid group Doctors Without Borders said earlier this week that at least 87 people were killed and some 266 were injured in the attack on the detention center in the province of Saada

Yemen’s conflict began in 2014, when the Iran-backed Houthis took the capital, Sanaa, and much of northern Yemen, forcing the government to flee to the south, then into exile in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led coalition, backed at the time by the U.S., entered the war months later to try restoring the government to power.

Shifting front lines on the ground have resulted in escalating attacks in recent weeks, after United Arab Emirates-backed forces have made gains in the contested province of Marib, which the Houthis have been trying to take for more than a year. The coalition airstrikes came after Houthis struck inside the UAE twice with missiles and drones, killing three in a strike near the Abu Dhabi international airport. The Houthis have also fired missiles into the Saudi border areas.

The attacks threaten the business-friendly, tourism-focused efforts of the Emirates, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula also home to Dubai. New U.S. State Department guidance issued Thursday called on Americans to “reconsider travel” to the UAE “due to the threat of missile or drone attacks.”

The Saada attack followed another Saudi-led coalition airstrike Friday at the Red Sea port city of Hodeida that hit a telecommunications center key to Yemen’s connection to the internet, knocking the country offline for days.

The Saada airstrike was not the first to hit a Houthi-run prison. A September 2019 airstrike hit a detention center the southwestern Dhamar province, killing more than 100 people and wounding dozens.

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes have hit schools, hospitals and wedding parties, killing an estimated thousands of civilians, according to monitoring groups.

Investigations by the coalition’s internal assessment body have in the past largely denied any wrongdoing on the part of its forces.

The Houthis meanwhile have used child soldiers and indiscriminately laid land mines across the country. They also launched cross-border attacks using ballistic missiles and explosives-laden drones on Saudi Arabia and now the UAE.

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