SANAA/ADEN (Reuters) - Three brothers waiting to get married were killed in a rocket attack alongside at least 22 other people in southwest Yemen on Thursday, residents and medics said.
Local people told Reuters jets from a Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-allied Houthis in Yemen was probably to blame, but the coalition’s spokesman said it had carried out no air strikes in that part of the country.
The three brothers were waiting for their brides’ party to arrive when a missile hit their house in the town of Sanban in Dhamar region, residents said. At least 50 people were wounded, but the brides were unharmed, locals and medics added.
Officials and residents have accused the Saudi-led forces of killing civilians in two other attacks over the past two weeks, prompting international criticism, but the coalition has denied this and instead blamed rockets fired by the Houthis.
Coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said the attack in Dhamar was likely also the work of the Houthis, and accused them of trying to divert attention from recent reverses by targeting civilians and blaming it on the Saudi-led forces.
The Houthi-run Saba news agency reported that a coalition air raid in Sanban had killed or wounded dozens of people at a wedding celebration and that the toll might exceed 30. Medics from the Dhamar governorate said at least 25 died.
The Arab coalition began its air strikes against the Houthis and their allies, forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, in late March after a push from their northern stronghold towards the southern port of Aden.
The coalition, , which is trying to restore Yemen’s ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, stepped up air strikes on Yemen’s capital Sanaa and other Houthi-held areas after a Houthi missile killed more than 60 Gulf Arab troops stationed in Marib province on Sept. 4.
Coalition forces on Thursday advanced further up the Red Sea coast from the Bab al-Mandab strait and reached 50 km (30 miles) south of the port of al-Mokha, Asseri said.
Separately on Thursday, a prominent judge and a senior army officer were shot dead by unidentified gunmen on motorcycles in two separate incidents, security sources said, adding that Islamist militants were suspected of the killings.
Abbas Hassan al-Aqrabi, a judge at the Special Criminal Court which had jailed militants, was shot on the street in the port of Aden. Colonel Jamal al-Suqqaf was shot outside his home in western Aden. Both men died immediately, the sources said.
The two killings followed coordinated explosions on Tuesday claimed by Islamic State at the Qasr Hotel, where Yemen’s government was temporarily based, and at a United Arab Emirates military base, killing 15 people including four Gulf soldiers.
Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari and Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Andrew Heavens