U.S. Bombs Were Used in Saudi-Led Attack on Market in Yemen, Rights Group Finds

U.S. may be “jointly responsible” for crimes of war due to American support for apparently indiscriminate killing by Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations, according to Human Rights Watch.

© 2016 Amal al-Yarisi The covered market in Mastaba where vendors sold qat, a plant widely chewed in Yemen as a mild stimulant, vegetables, and household goods that was destroyed in the March 15 airstrike. Photo: Amal al-Yarisi/Human Rights Watch

ONE OF THE deadliest airstrikes in Yemen since a Saudi Arabia-led coalition began bombing the country used munitions supplied by the United States, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

The March 15 attack targeted a crowded market in the village of Mastaba in northwestern Yemen, killing at least 97 civilians, including 25 children. HRW said it found remnants of a “GBU-31 satellite-guided bomb, which consists of a U.S.-supplied MK-84 2,000-pound bomb mated with a JDAM satellite guidance kit, also U.S.-supplied.” The group said it also reviewed evidence provided by British news channel ITV, which found remnants of an “MK-84 bomb paired with a Paveway laser guidance kit.”

The report provides yet more evidence of U.S. complicity in the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Yemen. The Obama administration has been a key military backer of Saudi Arabia in its yearlong campaign against a rebel movement in Yemen known as the Houthis. In addition to billions of dollars in arms sales, the Pentagon has provided the Saudi-led coalition with logistical and intelligence support. Human Rights Watch said the U.S. role may make it “jointly responsible” for war crimes.

“The U.S. military has deployed dedicated personnel to the Saudi joint planning and operations cell to help coordinate activities,” the group’s report said. “U.S. participation in specific military operations, such as providing advice on targeting decisions and aerial refueling during bombing raids, may make U.S. forces jointly responsible for laws-of-war violations by coalition forces. As a party to the conflict, the U.S. is obligated to investigate allegedly unlawful attacks in which it took part.”

Since the conflict began in March 2015, more than 6,400 people have been killed, nearly half of them civilians, and more than 30,000 injured. According to the United Nations, airstrikes have been responsible for the majority of civilians deaths. The Saudi-led coalition has been accused of numerous violations, including the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, and factories.

“The U.S. and others should pull the plug on arms to the Saudis or further share responsibility for civilian lives lost,” stated Priyanka Motaparthy, emergencies researcher at HRW.

The bombing of the market in Mastaba last month was perhaps the deadliest attack of the entire war so far. Journalist Mohammed Ali Kalfood visited the site after it was bombed and interviewed a survivor who provided a heart-wrenching account to The Intercept:

There were two big craters where the bombs hit — nearly full of ripped and charred bodies, and blood was everywhere. Survivors were in a frenzy; rescuers began to pile up the bodies, while the wounded were rushed to hospitals. Thank God, I survived unscathed. None of my family members were there at the time. But other families were blown up: Five brothers, who used to help khat sellers to make a living, were all killed in the strikes. When their old father, Hassan Kashoor, came to identify the bodies of his five sons, four of them could hardly be identified, while the other went unidentified. There were too many limbs and other parts of the bodies of those who were killed, so that the families could barely identify their dead.

Top photo: The covered market in Mastaba, Yemen, was destroyed in the March 15, 2016, airstrike.

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