Coalition rejects Houthi claim it is behind attack on refugee boat that left 42 dead

Maj. Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri. (SPA)
Updated 17 March 2017
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Coalition rejects Houthi claim it is behind attack on refugee boat that left 42 dead

JEDDAH/ADEN: A military vessel and a helicopter gunship Friday attacked a boat packed with Somali refugees off the coast of Yemen, killing at least 42 people, said Yemeni officials and a survivor who witnessed the attack.
Maj. Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, dismissed Houthi accusations that the coalition carried out the attack.
He told Arab News that the coalition forces had not been involved in fighting in Al-Hodeida where the attack took place. “There has been no firing by the coalition in this zone,” the spokesman said.
A Yemeni trafficker who survived the attack said the boat was filled with Somali refugees, including women and children, who were trying to reach Sudan from war-torn Yemen.
Al-Hassan Ghaleb Mohammed said the boat had left from Ras Arra, along the southern coastline in Al-Hodeida province, and was 50 km off the coast, near the Bab Al-Mandab Strait, when the military vessel and then the helicopter gunship opened fire.
He described a scene of panic in which the refugees held up flashlights, apparently to show that they were poor migrants. He said the helicopter then stopped firing, but only after dozens had been killed. Mohammed was unharmed in the attack.
A top official with the UN’s migration agency said 42 bodies have been recovered from the attack. Mohammed Abdiker, emergencies director at the International Organization for Migration in Geneva, said the attack at around 3 a.m. on Friday was “totally unacceptable” and that combatants should have checked who was aboard the boat “before firing on it.”
He said about 75 men and 15 women who survived the attack were taken to detention centers, and some bodies were laid in a fish market in Al-Hodeida because of a lack of space in mortuaries.
— with input from AFP, AP


Lebanese budget protesters clash with security in Beirut

Updated 22 min 36 sec ago
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Lebanese budget protesters clash with security in Beirut

  • Over one hundred protesters gathered Monday outside the Government House in downtown Beirut
  • Lebanon faces a looming fiscal crisis as the economy struggles with soaring debt

BEIRUT: Security forces opened water cannons on Lebanese anti-austerity protesters in the country’s capital on Monday, as the government continued to hold marathon meetings to discuss severe budget cuts.
Lebanon faces a looming fiscal crisis as the economy struggles with soaring debt, rising unemployment and slow growth. The government’s tightened budget and key reforms aim to unlock billions of dollars in pledged foreign assistance. But planned cuts have unleashed a wave of public discontent, amid leaks that austerity could target public wages, services and social benefits.

A retired Lebanese soldier chants slogans while holding an army flag, during a protest in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday. (AP)

Over one hundred protesters gathered Monday outside the Government House in downtown Beirut shouting “Thieves, thieves!” as the Cabinet met for its 16th session and struggles to reach agreement.
Protesters pushed back against police lines and set fire to tires outside the building. At least two policemen and one civilian were wounded in the scuffles.
Among those demonstrating Monday were public and private school teachers and retired officers.
The government, headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, has sought to calm nerves while also describing the upcoming budget as the most austere in Lebanon’s history.
Hariri said he hopes the government will be able to send the budget to parliament later this week.
Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said the cabinet made “important progress” in discussions Sunday.