Residents report 27 die in Yemen strike, coalition denies

By Mohammed Ghobari SANAA (Reuters) - A local official and residents said at least 27 people, mostly women or children, were killed on Monday in an air strike on a wedding party in southwest Yemen, but a Saudi-led coalition that has air supremacy over the country strongly denied any role. A coalition of Arab states has been attacking the Iranian-allied Houthi group across Yemen since March, trying to dislodge it from areas it has seized since last year and to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Residents said two missiles tore through tents used by a man affiliated with the Houthi group for his wedding reception in the village of al-Wahijah, near the Red Sea port city of Al-Mokha. A resident said 12 women, eight children and seven men had died in the attack. A local official put the death toll at 30. Several other people were taken to hospital. Coalition spokesman Brigadier-General Ahmed al-Asseri told Reuters: "There have been no air operations by the coalition in that area for three days. This is totally false news." "The coalition knows its responsibility and will always acknowledge a mistake if we make it. Take into consideration the chaotic situation in Yemen, with several armed elements and forces active around the country. Also, people sometimes cannot distinguish between canon, mortar and Katyusha (missiles)." It was not the case that "every explosion that happens in Yemen" was caused by the coalition, he added. Al-Wahijah is located in Taiz province, which the Houthis captured in March as they began advancing on the southern port city of Aden, where Hadi was based before he was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia. On Sunday, residents and medics said helicopters flying from Saudi Arabia attacked a village in Yemen's northern Hajjah province, killing at least 30 people, including three medics who were trying to evacuate victims of a first strike. Saudi authorities dismissed the accounts as "totally false". International rights groups have expressed concern over mounting civilian casualties in the Yemeni conflict, in which more than 4,500 people have been killed. The Saudi-led campaign has resulted in several mass killings of civilians, including 36 people at a water bottling plant in August and 25 workers at a milk factory in April. In northeast Yemen, Hadi supporters, backed by Arab ground forces and helicopters, appear to have advanced against the Houthis in Marib province, east of the capital Sanaa, a local official said. (Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Sami Aboudi and William Maclean,; Editing by Andrew Roche and Dominic Evans)