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Middle East

Dozens of Somali refugees killed off Yemen coast

At least 42 Somalis have died after gunfire from a helicopter struck their boat off Hodeida's coast in Yemen. It is not clear who was behind the attack.

A boat carrying dozens of Somali refugees came under fire from a helicopter and miltary vessel on Friday.

Joel Millman, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said, "Our confirmation is that there are dozens of deaths and many dozens of survivors brought to hospitals." The organization said the refugees, who were from Somalia, were probably heading towards Sudan.

The United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR condemned the tragedy: "UNHCR is appalled by this tragic incident, the latest in which civilians continue to disproportionately bear the brunt of conflict in Yemen."

The Saba news agency, controlled by rebels, said the attack took place off the coast of Hodeida and close to Bab al-Mandab strait. It also said that the dead included women and children.

There was no comment from the coalition.

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War-torn Yemen is a migrant destination

Hodeida has witnessed severe clashes in the past 24 hours. Thirty-two people, including 10 civilians, have been killed.

Since the last two years, Riyadh has been waging an offensive in Yemen's south to flush out Houthi rebels, who are fighting to oust the country's president, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

According to the UN - which has described the catastrophe in Yemen as the"largest humanitarian crisis" - more than 7,400 people have died in the conflict since March 2015. Around two-thirds of the population is in dire need of food and medical assistance.

Despite the crisis, Yemen continues to be an important transit point for African migrants. Several camps in Yemen's south host migrants from the Horn of Africa.

mg/wd (AFP, AP)

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