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Death toll rises after strikes hit Yemen wedding

AFP photo/ Mohammed Huwais | An air raid on Sanaa, Yemen.

The death toll from an air strike on a wedding party in Yemen has jumped to 131, medics said on Tuesday, in one of the deadliest attacks on civilians since the start of the country’s conflict.

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A Saudi-led coalition that has air supremacy over Yemen has strongly denied any role in the wedding party carnage, and a coalition spokesman suggested that local militias may have fired the projectiles.

Residents said on Monday that two missiles tore through tents in the Red Sea village of Al-Wahijah, near the port of Al-Mokha, where a local man affiliated with the Houthis was holding his wedding reception.

A medical source at a local hospital in Maqbana, where the casualties were taken, said on Tuesday that the death toll from the attack had risen to 131. A source told FRANCE 24 on Monday that 70 people had been killed in the strike.

The United Nations said that it was trying to confirm the revised death toll, which it said could be as high as 135.

"If the numbers are as high as suggested, this may be the single deadliest incident since the start of the conflict," UN rights agency spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack on Monday, calling for an immediate end to the conflict.

Saudi-led airstrikes

The Saudi-led coalition began strikes in March in a bid to drive Iranian-allied Houthi rebel forces out of wide swathes of the country seized since last year, and to reinstate President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Pro-Hadi government forces backed by local militias, Gulf troop reinforcements and air raids have taken back some terrain from the Houthis including the southern port of Aden, where Hadi has set up a temporary base after returning from Saudi exile.

But international rights groups have expressed alarm at the escalating number of civilian deaths in Yemen.

At least 2,355 of the more than 4,500 people killed between the end of March and Sept. 24 were civilians, according to figures released by the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva on Tuesday.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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