Somalia’s government is blaming the Saudi-led coalition for an attack on a boat that killed at least 42 Somali refugees off the coast of war-torn Yemen.
Somalia’s government on Saturday blamed the Saudi-led coalition for Friday’s attack on a boat that killed at least 42 Somali refugees off the coast of war-torn Yemen, calling the assault by a military vessel and a helicopter gunship “horrific”.
Somalia urged the US-supported coalition to investigate. The boat was packed with dozens of refugees, some of them women and children.
“What happened there was a horrific and terrible problem inflicted on innocent Somali people. The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen is responsible for it,” Somalia’s foreign minister, Abdisalam Omer, said on state-run radio.
He said Yemen’s government also must give an explanation for the attack and that those responsible must be brought to justice.
Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire in a separate statement called the attack “atrocious” and “appalling.”
Yemen’s Houthi rebels also have blamed the Saudi-led coalition. There has been no coalition comment.
The attack came just weeks after Somalia’s recently elected president, the Somali-American Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, chose to make Saudi Arabia his first official foreign visit overseas.
The attack highlighted the perils of a heavily used migration route running from the Horn of Africa to the oil-rich Gulf, right through Yemen’s civil war.
Laurent De Boeck, the head of the Yemeni office for the International Organisation for Migration, has said the agency believes all those on board the boat were registered refugees.
A Yemeni trafficker who survived the attack said the refugees had been trying to reach Sudan. Somalia’s foreign minister on Saturday said their ultimate destination had been Somalia.
The trafficker, al-Hassan Ghaleb Mohammed, said the boat left from Ras Arra, along the southern coastline in Yemen’s Hodeidah province, and was near the Bab al-Mandab strait when the attack occurred.
Mohammed described a scene of panic in which the terrified refugees waved flashlights, apparently to show they were not combatants. He said the helicopter then stopped firing, but only after dozens had been killed.
Video of the aftermath showed dozens of slain migrants, along with others who suffered gunshot wounds, lost limbs, or had broken arms and legs.