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Death toll from Saudi-led air strikes on Yemeni market rises to more than 100

by Reuters
Thursday, 17 March 2016 17:37 GMT

People ride on a motorbike past a building destroyed during recent fighting in Yemen's southwestern city of Taiz March 14, 2016. REUTERS/Anees Mahyoub

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There were 22 children among the dead

By Mohammed Ghobari

CAIRO, March 17 (Reuters) - The death toll from Saudi-led air strikes on an outdoor market in northwestern Yemen has risen to more than 100, a provincial health director and a U.N. official said on Thursday, making it one of the deadliest attacks in the year-old war.

Spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri has said that the Saudi-led coalition, which has been fighting the Iran-allied Houthis since March 2015, was looking into reports of the attack in the Hajjah province.

Ayman Mathkour, director of the Hajjah health department, said the death toll from three air strikes in Mustaba district on Tuesday had risen to 116. He put the number of wounded at local hospitals at 47.

Mathkour said most of the casualties were civilians. Local residents estimated that some 20 of the dead were members of the armed Houthi group which ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in March last year and forced him into exile.

The acting director of the U.N. Children's Fund's office in Yemen, Meritxell Relano, put the death toll from Tuesday's strikes at 119, according to the UNICEF Facebook page in Arabic.

She said there were 22 children among the dead and six wounded.

Asseri, in remarks after the attack on Tuesday, said that the coalition was investigating "to make sure if it is true or not", adding that while it was too early to talk about the incident, the coalition would regret any injuries or loss of life.

Asseri could not be reached on Thursday for further comments.

More than 6,200 people, half of them civilians, have been killed in Yemen's conflict since the Saudi-led intervention began, according to the United Nations.

In January, a U.N. panel found that air strikes had targeted civilians, assessed that some of the attacks could be crimes against humanity and recommended the U.N. Security Council consider establishing an investigation.

The Saudi-led coalition strongly denies targeting civilians. In January it said it had introduced tougher procedures to investigate reports of strikes that caused civilian deaths and to improve its targeting mechanisms with U.S. help.

(Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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