18 - 03
42 Somali refugees have been killed after a helicopter gunship set upon their boat as they attempted to cross the Red Sea from Yemen into Sudan.
According to one Yemeni people smuggler who survived the attack, the boat, which had set sail under the cover of darkness, was attacked by a helicopter gunship about 30 miles off the Yemeni coast.
The helicopter, identified as an Apache by a coastguard official in the rebel-held town of Hodeida, stopped its barrage of light weapons fire after the refugees lit up flashlights in a desperate attempt to be recognized as non-combatants.
The boat’s captain, a Yemeni, managed to steer the boat to Hodeida before succumbing to injuries sustained during the attack.
42 bodies have been recovered, with thirty other refugees suffered varying degrees of injuries; 73 survived unscathed.
Saba Agency, currently controlled by Houthi rebels, who have been in a state of war against a Saudi-led coalition since March 2015, claimed that the helicopter belonged to the Saudi-led coalition, a claim rubbished by the coalition’s spokesman, Major General Ahmed Asseri.
“There has been no firing by the coalition in this zone,” claimed Maj. Gen. Asseri.
The Saudi-led coalition maintains a total naval blockade aimed at cutting off the Houthi’s supply lines, and claim that ports under Houthi control are used for “trafficking people, smuggling weapons and attacks against the line of communications in the Red Sea.”
As such, the coalition has a fleet of ships and planes to enforce this blockade.
In recent days, small boats have been strafed by helicopter gunships in a manner similar to the attack on the boat carrying Somali refugees.
The night before, a fishing boat was attacked in similar fashion, resulting in 7 deaths, while another attack in the recent past killed 32 people after hitting two fishing boats.
While it has denied claims of responsibility, the Saudi-led coalition is the one that has an air force that has been used in the Yemen war with devastating effect, and Saudi Arabia owns several Apache helicopters, and they’ve been used in Houthi strongholds in northern Yemen.