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Helicopter attack targets Somali refugee vessel off Yemen, killing at least 31

Such as trip would be a departure from previous policies by the United Nations refugee agency, which for months has been taking Somali refugees from Yemen back to Somalia by boat.

Photos that were too graphic to publish showed the bodies of women and men in civilian clothes lying on top of one another in the partially destroyed boat, their belongings splattered with blood.

In Geneva, IOM spokesman Joel Millman told reporters that he was unable to confirm news reports indicating that an Apache helicopter gunship was responsible for the attack.

It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack late Thursday, but a Yemeni coast guard official told the Reuters news agency that a US -made Apache helicopter was involved.

Al-Massirah Yemeni television reported that the Saudi-led warplanes targeted a boat carrying dozens of Somali immigrants off al-Hudaydah in Yemen. The alleged incident triggered retaliatory airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, including a helicopter gunship assault on a fishing vessel that killed a number of fishermen hours before the strike on the migrant boat.

Volunteers help recover bodies from the boat after the attack.




A port official in Hodeida, held by Shia Houthi rebels, confirmed the toll. He says the helicopter then stopped firing but only after more than 30 Somalis had been killed. Mohammed was unharmed in the attack. There were 91 survivors, some of whom were hospitalized, he said.

The government, which is heavily backed by a Saudi-led coalition, is battling the Houthis and military units loyal to a former president.

African migrants often head to Yemen, as it is a transit point to Saudi Arabia, where they seek jobs and a better life.

The Saudi war on Yemen has killed thousands of civilians, and unleashed a humanitarian crisis in the improvised Middle Eastern country.

The coalition is the only party to the conflict with naval and air forces, and rights groups have documented hundreds of airstrikes in which civilians have been killed.

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