CAIRO (AP) — Yemeni medics said Saturday they have pulled at least 130 bodies from the rubble of a rebel-run detention center that was hit earlier this month by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in the country’s southwest.
The attack was one of the deadliest in more than four years of war in Yemen that have claimed tens of thousands of lives, thrust millions to the brink of famine and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The Saudi-led coalition, which has fought the Iran-backed Huthis since 2015, has faced international criticism for airstrikes that have hit schools, hospitals and wedding parties, killing thousands of civilians.
Bashir al-Dawrani, a spokesman for the Yemeni Red Crescent, told The Associated Press that the death toll has yet to be confirmed as search efforts are ongoing for more bodies at the site in the Dhamar province.
The complex of buildings was part of the local community college before Iran-backed Huthi rebels turned it into a detention center, one of dozens in areas under their control.
Families have begun to take the bodies from a hospital in Dhamar, al-Dawrani said.
The Saudi-led coalition said it had bombed a “legitimate military target,” and blamed the Houthis for using the former college as a detention center for forcibly disappeared Yemenis.
Houthi and medical officials have said the detention center was holding at least 170 people when it was hit. The detainees were captured forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized government as well as civilians who had been arrested for criticizing the Houthis in recent years.
The International Committee for the Red Cross, which inspects detention centers as part of its global mission, said earlier this week that 40 wounded were being treated for injuries while the rest were presumed dead, and that it would likely take days to recover all the bodies.
Yemen’s civil war started in 2014 when the Huthis overran the capital, Sanaa, and much of the country’s north. The Saudi-led coalition of mostly Arab states intervened in March 2015 to try and restore the internationally recognized government of President Mansour Abed Rabbo Hadi to power.
The fighting has killed more than 94,000 people including over 16,000 in 2019, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED, which tracks the war.
BY SAMY MAGDY