Houthi missiles kill dozens of Yemen soldiers at mosque

Bombardment during Friday prayers was second deadly attack in country after more than 40 refugees were killed when their boat was fired upon.

Bodies of Somali refugees who were killed when their boat was attacked off Yemen’s Red Sea coast are unloaded in the rebel-held Yemeni port city of Hodeidah on March 17, 2017. AFP
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Aden // Yemen’s Houthi rebels killed dozens of pro-government fighters in a missile attack on a mosque during Friday prayers.

A loyalist military source said the attack targeted the mosque at Kofel camp in Marib province, east of the rebel-held capital Sanaa.

Hospital officials in Marib city, the provincial capital, said at least 26 pro-government fighters were killed.

A military official in Marib said attack was carried out with Katyusha-type rockets, but the Houthi-controlled Saba news agency said the rebels used Iranian-made Zelzal-1 missiles, followed by artillery fire.

“Dozens of bodies of burned soldiers were evacuated from the site,” Saba said, without mentioning that a mosque had been hit.

Pro-government forces have retaken large parts of Marib province from the Iran-backed rebels since the March 2015 launch of a Saudi-led intervention in favour of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.

Earlier on Friday, more than 40 Somali refugees including women and children were shot dead aboard a boat in the Red Sea off Yemen’s east coast.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack.

The refugees were hit by light weapons fire in waters off rebel-held Hodeidah but managed to dock in the city’s port, an official there said.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which has operations in Yemen, said 42 bodies had been recovered.

More than 30 wounded were reported to have been taken to hospital.

The port official said dozens of Somalis who survived the attack, as well as three Yemeni traffickers, had been taken to the city’s prison.

The rebel-controlled Saba agency accused the Saudi-led coalition battling the rebels of attacking the refugees from the air but did not provide further details.

Major General Ahmed Assiri, spokesman for the coalition, dismissed the accusation and said its forces had not been involved in fighting in Hodeidah.

“There has been no firing by the coalition in this zone,” Maj Gen Assiri said.

The coalition has been backing pro-government forces waging an offensive from the south to retake Yemen’s Red Sea coast from Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

It was unclear whether those on board were trying to leave Yemen or seek refuge there, but the IOM said it believed the boat was headed for Sudan.

Despite a war that has cost more than 7,000 lives so far and brought the country to the brink of famine, Yemen continues to attract people fleeing the Horn of Africa.

Several refugee camps in southern Yemen are hosting Somali refugees, although not in the Hodeidah area.

But the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said that as conditions worsen in Yemen, refugees are starting to use areas further to the north as a transit route.

* Agence France-Presse