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Middle East

Scores of civilians killed in air raid

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-09-17

More than 80 civilians were killed during an air raid in northern Yemen on Thursday when the army fired at a makeshift camp of displaced people where rebels were believed to be hiding, say media reports quoting witnesses.

AFP - More than 80 civilians were killed in an air raid which blasted a makeshift camp of displaced people in northern Yemen, witnesses said on Thursday, as the army pursued its offensive on Shiite rebels.

One witness, reached by telephone, told AFP that most of those killed in Wednesday's raid were women and children.

The attack was carried out by a "warplane (that) targeted displaced families who had gathered under trees in the area of Adi," in Amran province -- scene of heavy fighting between the army and the rebels, the witness said, asking not to be identified.

Another witness, also reached by telephone, told AFP that "at least 87 were killed" in the attack, which was acknowledged by a Yemeni official.

"The jet fighter targeted Huthi (rebels) who were firing (while hiding) among the displaced people," the official told AFP requesting anonymity. He declined to comment on the death toll.

A rebel statement condemned the attack, accusing the Sanaa government, which has vowed to crush the five-year-old rebellion, of thirsting for blood.

"The bloodthirsty authorities have committed a new massacre," said a statement issued by the Huthi rebels.

It said that government MiG warplanes at 12:00 noon (0900 GMT) on Wednesday had targeted displaced people gathering along the Barata road, near Harf Sufyan, which lies on the route linking Saada to the capital.

"Dozens were killed and the bodies were blown away by the impact of the strike," the statement said.

The Yemeni army, which launched operation Scorched Earth against the rebels on August 11, said Thursday it has delivered heavy blows "over the past hours."

A military commander claimed the army had killed and wounded many rebels, whom it accused of using civilians as human shields.

New York-based Human Rights Watch urged the Yemeni government to "promptly and impartially investigate responsibility for any attacks on civilians."

In a statement it also urged all parties to the armed conflict in the region to "respect the prohibition under international law against targeting civilians."
  

Date created : 2009-09-17