December 29, 2017 / 4:53 PM / 25 days ago

Yemen government says 32 killed in air strike, disputing U.N. toll

DUBAI (Reuters) - Officials in Yemen’s mostly Saudi-based government said 32 civilians were killed in a Saudi-led coalition air strike on a market in the Taiz region earlier this week, disputing a U.N. death toll of 56.

U.N. resident coordinator Jamie McGoldrick said on Thursday the 56 were among 109 civilians killed in Saudi-led strikes in the previous 10 days and he condemned as “futile” the nearly three years of war in the poorest Arab country.

It pits Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement against the internationally recognised government backed by the Saudi-led alliance, which has carried out thousands of air strikes to roll back the Houthis and fend off perceived expansion by arch-foe Iran.

But the government officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday’s attack on the crowded market in Al Hayma sub-district of Attazziah in Taiz governorate appeared to target a Houthi military vehicle.

“A Houthi military truck passed through the market 10 minutes before the bombing ..., 32 people were killed and 25 injured,” one official said, providing 30 of their names.

He added that the market was closed at the time, but an unusual number of people had gathered there to survey the damage from an air strike the night before that had also targeted a passing military vehicle.

The United Nations says the coalition campaign has killed hundreds of civilians. But a body set up by the alliance has set up its own investigating committee which has disputed U.N. casualty counting methods and largely attributed deadly strikes to the presence of Houthi combatants in targeted areas.

“This statement creates a continuous state of doubt about the information and data used by the United Nations, and challenges its credibility,” a coalition spokesman said in the wake of the U.N. statement.

Writing by Noah Browning; editing by Mark Heinrich

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