'Air strike kills at least 140' at funeral hall packed with mourners in Yemen

Houthi-run government claims the strike was by the Saudi-led coalition, something that has been denied  

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The Independent Online

 An air strike has killed at least 140 people and wounded more than 500 after it hit a funeral hall packed with mourners in Sanaa, Yemen's capital.

The death toll is one of the largest in any single incident since a Saudi-led alliance began military operations to try to restore President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power following his ousting by Houthis rebels in March 2015.

The acting health minister in the Houthi-run administration, Ghazi Ismail blamed "Saudi aggression" for the strike. 

Witnesses said two missiles were fired with one tearing through the building in the south of the capital Saana, where a wake for the father of Interior Minister Jalalal al-Roweishan was being held.

Those at the scene said they saw ambulances ferrying casualties and a medic claimed there were charred and mutilated bodies.

The Saudi-led coalition has denied carrying out the strike.

“Absolutely no such operation took place at that target,” a source in the Saudi-led coalition told Reuters, citing what he described as confirmation from the coalition air force command.

“The coalition is aware of such reports and is certain that it is possible that other causes of bombing are to be considered. The coalition has in the past avoided such gatherings and (they have) never been a subject of targets.”

The United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, said in a statement: "Initial reports from health officials in Sanaa indicate that over 140 people were killed and over 525 injured."

The UN aid official called for an immediate investigation and said the international community must exert pressure to ensure civilians are protected.

Houthi administration Health ministry spokesman Tamim al-Shami told television channel Almasirah the toll was likely to rise as "charred human remains" at the scene had yet to be identified and many people unaccounted for, AFP reports.

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Yemenis inspect the site at the funeral ceremony in Sanaa (EPA)

In the aftermath of the strike, hundreds of body parts were found strewn in and outside the hall. Rescuers collected them in sacks.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said 300 body bags had been prepared.

"The place has been turned into a lake of blood," said one rescuer, Murad Tawfiq.

Yemeni security and medical officials said the dead and wounded include military and security officials from the ranks of the Shia Houthi rebels fighting the internationally-recognised government of President Hadi.

Among those killed was Major General Abdul-Qader Hilal, head of the capital's local council, according to the officials.

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People inspect the aftermath of the suspected airs trike in Sanaa (AP)

Ambulances rushed to the site to ferry the wounded to hospitals. In radio broadcasts, the Health Ministry summoned off-duty doctors and called on residents to donate blood.

Rescuers, meanwhile, sifted through the rubble in search of more casualties, but a fire that erupted hindered their work.

The conflict in Yemen  has resulted in more than 10,000 people being killed.

Additional reporting by agencies

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