Apache Helicopter Guns Down Boat Full of Somali Refugees Fleeing Yemen

An apparent military strike targeted a boat carrying Somali refugees off the coast of war-battered Yemen, killing dozens of people along a risky migrant route that leads to Libya and smuggling ships heading to Europe, U.N. and Yemeni officials said Friday.

UNHCR spokeswoman in Yemen, Shabia Mantoo, confirmed that a number of refugees were killed but did not confirm the numbers.

On Friday, an Apache military helicopter reportedly opened fire on a boat packed with over 140 Somali migrants off the coast of Yemen.

The IOM said that 80 survivors were rescued and taken to hospital including 24 in "extremely critical" condition. He said the helicopter then stopped firing, but only after dozens had been killed.

Coastguard authorities in the Houthi rebel stronghold of Hodeidah said a helicopter gunship attacked the vessel they were travelling on in the Red Sea.

Yemen's civil war, which is about to enter its third year of bloodshed, has allowed terrorist groups including Isis and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to seize territory and carry out attacks.

The official said that dozens of Somalis who survived, as well as three Yemeni traffickers, were taken to the city's prison. 32 people, including 10 civilians, have been killed.

It was not immediately clear who carried out Friday's attack.

Armed by the U.S. and United Kingdom, the coalition is allied with Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia when the Houthis took power.

The Saudi-led coalition has been heavily bombarding the coast around the port of Hodeida, where it accuses the rebels, known as the Houthis, of smuggling weapons in small boats.

Hodeidah on the Red Sea is controlled by Iran-allied Houthi fighters who in 2014 overran Yemen's capital Sanaa and forced the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee into exile.

Numerous victims were believed to have originated in Somalia, but it is not yet clear how many, the General Consul for the Somali General Consulate in Yemen Ahmed Abdi Hassan told CNN. Hadi's administration continues to be Yemen's internationally recognized government.

"We are appalled by this attack on innocent civilians".

  • Jon Douglas