British-advised Saudi airforce use ‘double tapping’ bombing to hit emergency responders as well as initial victims

Image result for yemen funeral bombing
Aftermath of the ‘double-tap’ attack on a wedding in Sanaa, October 2016

Human rights groups have criticised the Saudi-led coalition for its use of so-called “double-tap” attacks – in which a second bomb is dropped a few minutes after the first, targeting civilians and emergency responders who have rushed to the site of the first explosion. One such staggered attack on 8 October 2016 hit a funeral in Sana’a, killing 155 mourners and wounding at least 525. Another double-tap strike hit a wedding party in the remote village of Al-Wahijah on 28 Sept 2015, killing 131 civilians. “The corpses were scattered among the trees,” the father of the groom, Mohammed Busaibis, told the Yemeni human rights group Mwatana, adding that he learned his own mother had died when he saw her familiar scar on a disembodied leg. “Why did they attack us? There is nothing around here. No military camps, not even a police station.”

A former senior British official told me he was aghast at the recklessness of Saudi targeting. “This is what would happen regularly,” he told me. “We’d be sitting down for lunch and a Yemeni [from the government in exile] would get a WhatsApp message with a pin on Google Maps saying that there will be Houthis here. On that basis, an awful lot of the targeting was conducted without any verification whatsoever.”

Larry Lewis, the State Department advisor for civilian protection, described Saudi targeting to me as “incredibly loose”. “In the US and the UK,” he explained, “we have very formal processes” for airstrikes, but “this coalition is not using them … And when you mess up, bad things happen.”

Lewis says that in September 2016 – a few weeks before the funeral strike – he took his concerns to the chairman of the Saudi armed forces. “I laid out all of the very actionable things he could do to reduce civilian harm,” he told me. “The chairman didn’t really seem very interested … he just didn’t respond.” Last July, crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the architect of the air war, issued a royal decree “pardoning all military personnel who have taken part in Operation Restoring Hope of their respective military and disciplinary penalties.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s