Saudi-led coalition says it targeted ‘special security camp’ in Saada, not prison

Joint Incident Assessment Team has been gathering information since reports of air strike first emerged

A Yemeni man inspects a site reported to be a prison destroyed in a Saudi-led air strike in the Houthi stronghold of Saada, northern Yemen, on January 27. AFP

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen denied it targeted a prison in Saada and said it would present evidence refuting the militia’s claim.

The targeted location is a “special security camp”, which the coalition called "a legitimate military target in nature”.

“The Joint Forces Command of the Coalition will present all facts and detailed information regarding the Houthi militia’s claim that the coalition targeted a prison in Saada city to the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT), OCHA Yemen and ICRC,” coalition spokesman Brig Gen Turki Al Malki said.

He said there were four locations identified as prisons in the coalition’s “No Strike List” in Saada that are being used by the Houthis, and that the closest prison is located 1.8km away from the alleged area targeted in the strike on January 21.

“Furthermore, it is being used by the terrorist Houthi militia, and it is actively participating in hostilities and the launch of cross-border attacks to target civilians and civilian objects,” Brig Gen Al Malki said.

“What was announced and disseminated by the terrorist Houthi militia in its media outlets is a blatant attempt to mislead the public opinion regarding the true nature of the location in an attempt to garner sympathy from UN organizations and INGOs,” he said.

A day earlier, the coalition’s JIAT said it had been gathering information since reports first emerged of the prison being targeted on January 21.

The body did not say whether coalition planes carried out the air strike, as the Houthis have alleged. The coalition did announce a campaign of attacks elsewhere in Yemen in the days around the strike.

Yemenis stand next to a building reported to be a prison destroyed in a Saudi-led airstrike in the Houthi stronghold of Saada in northern Yemen, on January 27, 2022. AFP

The Houthis have launched cross-border attacks using ballistic missiles and explosive-laden drones on Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Yemen’s conflict began in 2014, when the Iran-backed Houthis took 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 US, entered the war months later to try and restore the government to power.

Updated: January 28, 2022, 6:52 AM