Yemenis protest after funeral hall attack

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Yemenis shout slogans during an anti-Saudi rally protesting Saudi-led airstrikes on a funeral hall, outside the UN offices in Sana"a, Yemen, 09 October 2016Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Yemenis protested outside the UN's offices in Sana'a

Thousands of Yemenis have taken to the streets of the capital, Sanaa, to protest after an air strike killed more than 140 people at a wake on Saturday.

Demonstrators gathered outside the UN headquarters demanding an international investigation into the strike, blamed on the Saudi-led coalition.

Saudi Arabia has not acknowledged any role but pledged to investigate.

It joined Yemen's civil war last year on the side of the internationally recognised government.

Powerful former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has allied himself with the Houthi rebels that control Sanaa, has called for people to attack soldiers on the Saudi border in revenge.

More than 500 people were wounded in Saturday's bombing, which targeted the wake of the father of Houthi-appointed Interior Minister Gawal al-Rawishan.

Many Houthi officials were in attendance and Mr Rawishan was seriously wounded in the strike.

Its aftermath was described as a "lake of blood" by one rescuer.

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The UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen condemned "the horrific attack"

The attack has been condemned by the UN, European Union and the US.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that "any deliberate attack against civilians is utterly unacceptable " and called for those responsible to be held accountable.

The Saudi-led coalition has pledged to "immediately investigate this case along with the Joint Incidents Assessment Team in Yemen and experts from the United States who participated in previous investigations".

It referred to "reports about the regrettable and painful bombing" in Sanaa, before adding: "The coalition confirms that its troops have clear instructions not to target populated areas and to avoid civilians."

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Many of those protesting Saudi Arabia's role in the war brandished weapons

The US said it had launched an "immediate review" of its already-reduced support for the coalition.

White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said US co-operation with Saudi Arabia was "not a blank cheque".

Houthi leader Abdul-Malek al-Houthi said in a televised address that the strike had taken place with a "green light" from Washington and using US weapons.

The rebels' spokesman called it an act of "genocide".

Yemen is in a desperate humanitarian situation with four out of every five of its 28-million population in need of assistance, according to the UN's humanitarian office.

Nearly three million people have been displaced since the war began in 2014.

The Houthis took the capital then, forcing the government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee.

The Saudi-led coalition has launched thousands of air strikes against the rebels, of the Zaidi Shia sect, which it fears are Iranian proxies.

A recent UN report estimated that that 3,799 civilians have been killed since the Saudi-led air campaign beganin March last year, with coalition strikes responsible for 60% of civilian deaths over a yearlong span.

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