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Saudi-led coalition bombs Yemen wedding with US weapons, killing 131 civilians

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The Saudi-led, US-backed coalition killed 131 civilians, including at least 80 women, after bombing a wedding in Yemen on September 28. The Saudi government said the attack was an accident and that it meant to target rebels, yet a representative of humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders revealed there was no military presence near the wedding. This attack marks the deadliest day in the war in Yemen, which has now gone on for over half a year.

At least 2,355 civilians have been killed in Yemen since the war broke out on March 26, according to the UN. 4,862 more have been wounded. The Saudi-led, US-backed coalition is responsible for approximately two-thirds of civilian deaths and civilian property destruction, the UN says.

This is not the first time Yemeni civilians celebrating a wedding have been killed with US weapons. A US drone fired four missiles at a wedding convoy in Yemen in December 2013, killing a dozen people.

Numerous human rights organizations and the UN have condemned the coalition, accusing it of committing war crimes. The Saudi-led coalition has dropped US-made cluster munitions—which are banned by much of the world—on civilian areas, and has even bombed an Oxfam humanitarian aid warehouse. Rights groups have also said the Houthi rebels, which the coalition is fighting, have committed war crimes, on a significantly smaller scale.

In late August, after 150 days of war, the UN estimated around 4,500 people had been killed and 23,000 more wounded in Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East. In the month since, this figure has likely risen to over 5,000 deaths. On average, 30 Yemenis have been killed every day, for more than six months.

On September 22, the coalition bombed two homes in Yemen capital Sana’a, killing 20 people, most of whom were civilians.

The day before, Saudi-led airstrikes killed at least 50 more Yemenis. In Sana’a, 18 members of one family were killed when their home was bombed.

Human rights organizations warn 80% of Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid due to the US-backed war and the Saudi blockade of Yemen.

$90 billion of US weapons in 4 years

The US has not just steadfastly supported the Saudi-led bombing campaign; it has also provided Saudi Arabia with the weapons it is using to commit what numerous human rights organizations have characterized as war crimes.

Between October 2010 and October 2014, the Obama administration made more than $90 billion in weapons deals with Saudi Arabia, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. The US has sold the Gulf monarchy war planes, armored vehicles, missiles, bombs, and more, which it is now using against Yemen.

Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, is one of the few absolute monarchies remaining on the planet and one of the most fundamentalist countries in the world. It is known for funding and supporting groups that preach its extremist interpretation of Islam, known as Wahhabism or Salafism (some scholars distinguish between the two, but they are often used synonymously).

A 2009 US government cable from then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released by WikiLeaks revealed that “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” The Saudi government officially says it opposes extremist groups like al-Qaeda, yet analysts say rich Saudi businessmen and even members of the royal family fund such groups.

In 2015, the Saudi monarchy has additionally executed one person, including children and the mentally ill, every two days on average, largely by beheading—and may be approaching a new record. The Gulf dictatorship plans to decapitate and crucify activist Ali Mohammed Al-Nimr, who was arrested in 2012, at age 17, for attending a pro-democracy protest.

The news of the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing of a Yemen wedding comes just days after the US applauded the appointment of Saudi Arabia as the head of a UN Human Rights Council panel. US Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner told a reporter the US government “welcome[s] it. We’re close allies.”

Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a journalist and writer based in New York City. His work has been featured in a variety of publications. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton. His website is

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14 Responses

  1. italian ex-pat on September 30, 2015, 12:27 pm

    Kind of hypocritical, isn’t it? The West, with the US at the lead, demonizes Assad of Syria for bombing the rebels trying to oust him, and also demonizes Putin for coming to the help of his ally.
    But we are so righteous to back the Saudis with weapons to bomb the rebels in Yemen. . . . Ah, they are OUR ally.

  2. Citizen on September 30, 2015, 12:39 pm

    On the global importance of Saudi Arabia (beyond the obvious: #1 oil spigot & massive buyer of US arms):

  3. ckg on September 30, 2015, 1:03 pm

    Does Mr. Toner even read the newspaper?

    QUESTION: Yesterday, Saudi Arabia was named to head the Human Rights Council, and today I think they announced they are about to behead a 21-year-old Shia activist named Muhammed al-Nimr. Are you aware of that?

    MR TONER: I’m not aware of the trial that you – or the verdict – death sentence.

    QUESTION: Well, apparently, he was arrested when was 17-years-old and kept in juvenile detention, then moved on. And now, he’s been scheduled to be executed.

    MR TONER: Right. I mean, we’ve talked about our concerns about some of the capital punishment cases in Saudi Arabia in our Human Rights Report, but I don’t have any more to add to it.

    QUESTION: Would you welcome as a – would you welcome a decision to commute the sentence of this young man?

    MR TONER: Again, I’m not aware of the case, so it’s hard for me to comment on it other than that we believe that any kind of verdict like that should come at the end of a legal process that is just and in accordance with international legal standards.

    • RoHa on September 30, 2015, 7:34 pm

      The vast and awe-inspiring extent of his ignorance leads me to ask,”Can Mr. Toner read?”

    • DaBakr on October 1, 2015, 1:10 pm

      @ix, ck, rh

      while your initial sarcastic query is correct-what makes the case of KSA being named head of the HRC at the UN stand out any more then in years past when other nations with similar lack of regard to due process and egregious human rights abuses have been on the same commission. Libya, China, Syria, Cuba just to name a few. (Of course Israel is not now nor ever has been eligible to sit on these committees so no hypocrisy lost there)
      The UN has been a useless and I would say in actuality harmful organization for many years now and complaining about the hypocrisy of KSA on the HRC is like saying its more outrageous that the occupation is going into its 49th yr as opposed to its 48th.

      • ckg on October 1, 2015, 2:18 pm

        The human rights abuses of KSA and Israel deserve special attention from Americans because these two regimes are U.S. allies who enjoy the diplomatic and moral support of our government. Libya, China, Syria, and Cuba do not.

      • Donald on October 1, 2015, 11:05 pm

        The UN human rights council has been a harsh critic of the war crimes of both the Syrian government and of Saudi Arabia in Yemen, so your whining with respect to those two countries makes no sense. I was surprised a few years ago when I started visiting their website– if you listened to the hasbara brigade online you’d think the only country they rake over the coals was Israel. This is utter nonsense.

  4. annie on September 30, 2015, 2:06 pm

    this is an excellent report ben, and i appreciate it. one thing that really jumped put at me, that 90 billion figure. i checked the source of the source you linked to and here is what is says:

    . Since October 2010, Congress has been notified of proposed sales to Saudi Arabia of fighter aircraft, helicopters, missile defense systems, missiles, bombs, armored vehicles, and related equipment and services, with a potential value of more than $90 billion.
    Since March 2015, the U.S.-trained Saudi military has used U.S.-origin weaponry, U.S. logistical assistance, and shared intelligence to carry out strikes in Yemen. Some Members of Congress have expressed skepticism about Saudi leaders’ commitment to combating extremism and sharing U.S. policy priorities. However, U.S.-Saudi counterterrorism ties reportedly remain close, and Saudi forces also have participated in coalition strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria since 2014

    not that you implied all of that weaponry was targeting yemen, because you didn’t, but since saudi arabia has been our coalition “partner” in syria, and as you point out “rich Saudi businessmen and even members of the royal family fund such groups ” [al qaeda, i wonder how many civilians have been killed in all regions of the ME from sales of US weapons, and specifically where.

  5. JLewisDickerson on September 30, 2015, 5:37 pm

    RE: “The Saudi-led, US-backed coalition killed 131 civilians, including at least 80 women, after bombing a wedding in Yemen on September 28.” ~ Ben Norton

    UGLY AMERICAN SEZ: Quit your bitchin’ Ben, at least cluster bombs weren’t used! ! !

    . . . And I’m proud to be an American
    Where at least I know I’m free
    And I won’t forget the men who died
    Who gave that right to me
    And I’d gladly stand up next to you
    And defend Her still today
    ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt
    I love this land
    God Bless the U.S.A. . .

  6. Boo on October 1, 2015, 12:51 pm

    Sounds like the Sauds are trying to break Bibi’s record established in Protective Edge. (Jealousy, the green-eyed monster…) A few more sorties against wedding parties should clinch it for them — at least until the next IDF assault.

    • DaBakr on October 1, 2015, 1:13 pm

      actually-it is the Bush and Obama administrations that have the ‘lock’ on hitting wedding parties with hellfire and other assorted missiles be they drone or sts launches.

  7. Kay24 on October 1, 2015, 4:07 pm

    Either we are killing innocent civilians at weddings, or one of our “dear allies” do that with our weapons.

    Meanwhile in Oregan, a lunatic who believed he had the right to bear arms, shot and killed many of our young people, at a community college. Thousands are being killed in our country, and we are poking our noses in other nations. Time to fix what is wrong in our own backyard first, before tying to solve other nation’s problems.

  8. ckg on October 2, 2015, 3:05 pm

    The Saudi FM has implicated the U.S. in the attack.

    After Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen hit a wedding party on Monday and killed more than 130 civilians, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister is addressing critics who are questioning the effectiveness of the strikes.

    “We are very careful in picking targets. We have very precise weapons,” Adel al-Jubeir told CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell. “We work with our allies including the United States on these targets.”

  9. Spring Renouncer on October 4, 2015, 1:42 pm

    Here is a modern art piece called Burnt Seeds, it expresses our collective responsibility as Americans for the destruction occurring in Yemen, Syria, Libya, Gaza etc.

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