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UK-made cruise missile used in deadly airstrike on Yemeni factory - Rights groups

DOHA (Reuters) - The Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting in Yemen used a British-made cruise missile in an attack on a Yemeni ceramics factory which killed at least one civilian and injured several more, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

The rights groups said a team of investigators had found the remnants of PGM-500 “Hakim” missiles, manufactured by the British firm Marconi Dynamics, amongst the rubble of a factory near the capital Sanaa that was hit in September.

“The attack on the factory in the Sanaa governorate, which appeared to be producing only civilian goods, killed one person, and was in apparent violation of international humanitarian law,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

Britain’s foreign minister, Philip Hammond, said earlier this month that he would halt weapons exports to Saudi Arabia if investigations found Riyadh had breached international humanitarian law in the war in Yemen.

Britain granted nearly 4 billion pounds of export licences for arms to Saudi Arabia in the five prior years according to a 2013 UK parliamentary report, including a consignment of 500lb Paveway IV bombs, used by Typhoon fighter jets manufactured by the British arms company BAE Systems.

Saudi officials could not immediately be reached for a comment on the report.

Rights groups say the vast majority of civilian casualties in Yemen have been caused by the Saudi-led coalition, which has mounted a campaign of air strikes, although the coalition says it is careful to avoid hitting civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Human Rights Watch has also criticized rights violations by the Houthi group that dominates Yemen and its allies, including the use of banned antipersonnel landmines.

Saudi Arabia has since March led an Arab military campaign to restore government authority in Yemen after the Iran-allied Houthi fighters took control of most of the country a year ago.

The war has killed at least 5,700 people and created a humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by the coalition’s blockade of Yemeni ports.

Amnesty International has asked the United Nations to investigate allegations that humanitarian law has been broken. It has also accused the Saudi-led coalition of using cluster bombs, banned by most countries.

Writing by Tom Finn; Editing by Angus MacSwan