Middle East

More than 100 killed in suspected Saudi-led airstrike on Yemen prison

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A series of Saudi-led airstrikes on a prison in Yemen have killed scores of prisoners loyal to the country's internationally recognised government.

Airstrikes by a Saudi-led military coalition in southwest Yemen have hit a prison complex, killing scores of people, Yemen's Houthi movement and a Red Cross official say.

The Sunni Muslim coalition, which has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthis for over four years in Yemen, said it destroyed a site storing drones and missiles in Dhamar on Sunday.

Franz Rauchenstein, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Yemen, said after visiting the prison complex and hospitals on Sunday that a "safe presumption is that over 100 had been killed".

Bodies covered in plastic lie on the ground amid the rubble
Bodies covered in plastic lie on the ground amid the rubble

The Houthi health ministry earlier said at least 60 bodies were pulled from the rubble at the detention centre, which officials said housed 170 prisoners.

"There are three buildings hit and the building where the detainees were located, most of them or the majority has been killed," Mr Rauchenstein said.

"The prisoners in that facility were prisoners that we had visited in relation to the conflict."

He said the Yemeni Red Crescent Society was still trying to retrieve bodies and that around 50 injured people had been taken to hospital.

The Yemen UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said 52 detainees were among the dead. At least 68 detainees are still missing.

Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen Martin Griffiths said he hoped the coalition would launch an inquiry into the incident.

"Accountability needs to prevail," he said in a statement.

Residents said there had been six air strikes.

"The explosions were strong and shook the city," a resident said. "Afterwards ambulance sirens could be heard until dawn."

The coalition, which has come under criticism by international rights groups for airstrikes that have killed civilians, said it had taken measures to protect civilians in Dhamar and the assault complied with international law.

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