WAHT, LAHJ, 7 JULY
Two days earlier, on 7 July, just after mid-afternoon (asr) prayers, a coalition strike killed 11 worshippers and injured several others in a mosque in Waht, a village north of Aden in Lahj governorate. Wi’am Ahmad Salah, a 29-year-old labourer, who sustained a broken leg and shrapnel injuries all over his body, told Amnesty International:
“That morning at about 2 or 3am a bomb hit the mosque but did not explode; it went through the roof and the outer wall and landed in the courtyard. All the residents of the neighbourhood went to look at it. It is still there, everyone is too scared to touch it. Maybe the bomb was meant to hit a house nearby where the Huthis used to stay? They [Huthis] never went to the mosque; only local people went to the mosque. There were no other strikes against the mosque or anything else nearby so people thought that the Saudis realized their mistake (in striking the mosque) and that there was no danger any more, and in the morning people went back to the mosque as usual. I went to the mosque in the afternoon planning to stay there until before Iftar. After a while there was another airstrike and this time it exploded the mosque. It was just after asr prayers, about 4pm; some people had left after the prayers and me and others had stayed. There was thick dust; I couldn’t see anything and I was terrified and in pain. A wall collapsed on me and broke my leg and I was bleeding from cuts and wounds everywhere. I lay there until residents who came to our rescue cleared the debris around me and carried me outside.”
Among those killed in the strike were brothers Mohammed and Fadhel Yahia Sayed and their cousin Yassin Abdallah Sayed; an elderly man of about 80, Abu Bakr Ali, a Somali refugee who according to residents spent most of his time at the mosque. Gita Aidarus (F), who lives very near the mosque and whose brother Kamal, was among those killed in the strike, told Amnesty International:
“My brother went to the mosque every morning at about 10am and stayed there all day reading Qur’an until late afternoon, as is customary during Ramadhan. Also now because of the war we can’t even go to work. The plane bombed the mosque just after asr prayers, just at the time when my brother would usually come home. People say that the plane meant to strike the house near the mosque where the Huthis were staying but made a mistake”.
Abdullah Amer Ahmed, a resident who was injured in the strike, told Amnesty International:
“It was 3.30pm when I was about to enter the mosque door. I saw everybody praying before me. Then I heard the whistling sound of the bomb. I shouted to warn everybody “BOMB!” Within seconds, the mosque door fell on my right hand side, breaking three of ribs, injuring my right ear and breaking my right hand.”
Near the ruins of the mosque Amnesty International found the unexploded bomb which had struck the mosque earlier that morning. The bomb, US-manufactured Mark 83 (MK 83), fitted with a US-manufactured delay fusing system, appeared to have malfunctioned, as it failed to explode. It is not clear whether the bombs used in this attack and in the attack against the school described above were fitted with precision guiding devices or not. Weapons that are by nature indiscriminate are prohibited under international humanitarian law and cannot be used in populated areas.
Both attacks appear to have missed their intended targets – nearby sites where members of the Huthi/Saleh loyalist armed groups gathered - or to have wrongly targeted civilian objects, a school and a mosque full of civilians not involved in the conflict for unknown reasons; possibly they were supplied the wrong coordinates by their operatives/informants on the ground. Whatever the case may be, coalition forces clearly failed to take the necessary precautions “to spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects” as required by Article 57(2) of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, which stipulates that those who plan or decide upon an attack shall:
“(i) do everything feasible to verify that the objectives to be attacked are neither civilians nor civilian objects…” and “(ii) take all feasible precautions in the choice of means and methods of attack with a view to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects”.
'NOWHERE SAFE FOR CIVILIANS'AIRSTRIKES AND GROUND ATTACKS IN YEMEN
Index: MDE 31/2291/2015 Amnesty International August 2015