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Yemen migrant boat attack kills at least 42 - BBC News

Rob Oliver 164 March 17, 2017
Yemeni police gather round bodies of Somali refugees (17/03/17) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The bodies were brought ashore after the incident

Forty-two people have been killed when a boat carrying Somali refugees off the coast of Yemen was fired at from a helicopter, the International Organisation for Migration says.

Women and children were among those killed when the vessel was hit near the Bab al-Mandeb strait, the IOM said.

Images from the scene showed a boat strewn with bodies.

In a separate incident on Friday, at least 22 people died in an attack on a mosque inside a military base in Yemen.

Two missiles were fired at the mosque, in the Kofal military camp west of Marib, officials said.

Among the dead on the boat were Somali refugees carrying identity documents issued by the UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency said.

About 80 survivors were rescued and taken to hospital, according to the IOM.

It remains unclear who carried out the attack, or whether it came from a military vessel or an attack helicopter.

A coastguard in the port of Hudaydah - which is controlled by Houthi rebels - told Reuters the boat had been hit by fire from helicopter gunships.

The rebel-controlled Saba news agency said the refugees had been attacked from the air by the Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels in Yemen's two-year war.

But an official from the port told the AFP news agency that the craft had docked and the dead and injured had been hit with light weapons fire.

The coalition, which in general controls Yemen's airspace, has not commented on the incident.

It is also not known where the boat was travelling to and from.

The official said that dozens of Somalis who survived, as well as three Yemeni traffickers, were taken to the city's prison.

Despite the humanitarian crisis which has brought Yemen to the brink of famine, some migrants from Africa continue to travel to the war-torn country.

UNHCR officials said the people in the boat may have been heading towards Sudan or other countries to the north to escape deteriorating conditions in Yemen.

Somalia is also currently at risk of famine, according to the UN, with 2.9m facing food insecurity - following decades of civil war and a previous famine in 2011.