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Saudis deny bombing wedding in southwest Yemen

Up to 15 people were killed after airstrikes struck a wedding in a rebel-held town in Yemen. Officials have accused Houthi rebels of employing a "maneuver" by accepting a UN-sponsored peace plan.

Fifteen civilians - including three grooms and two brides - died after two airstrikes on a wedding party in Yemen, a health official said. Criticized for the high civilian toll of its bombing campaign, the Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government has denied any involvement in Wednesday's attack, which also wounded about 30 people. The coalition did take credit for a successful strike in Marib earlier in the day (pictured).

"We did not conduct any operation in Dhamar," coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri told the AFP news agency on Thursday. "No strikes there, definitely."

The airstrike represents the second on a wedding party in Yemen in just over a week. In September, a strike

killed at least 130 civilians

at a wedding near the Red Sea city of Mokha, which the UN has called the deadliest single attack since March. The coalition has denied that strike, as well.

Rights groups have criticized the Saudi-led Arab coalition's attacks in Yemen, alleging that they have hit areas without any military targets. In late August, an airstrike hit a bottled water factory in the northern province of Hajja, killing 17 civilians and 14 rebels. In July, warplanes struck staff residences at a power plant in Mokha, killing 65 civilians, and further north a raid on a dairy plant in April left 35 civilians dead.

Last week, Saudi Arabia

torpedoed a UN inquiry

into rights violations by all sides in the conflict since the rebels seized power last year.

A 'maneuver'?

On Wednesday, Houthis told Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that they would

agree to a UN resolution

for talks to end fighting that has killed 5,000 people in six months and left the country on the brink of famine. "This is an important step," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said late Wednesday in New York.

The president's press secretary, however, has accused rebels of bad faith in ceasefire negotiations.

"The government's position is unchanged," said presidential press secretary Mokhtar Alrahbi. "There must be an announcement of willingness to implement all articles of the resolution without any changes."

He added that "we consider this a maneuver, especially after the painful strikes they received."

Working with troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Houthis currently control much of Yemen. The rebels had previously refused to abide by Resolution 2216, passed in April, which had demanded their withdrawal from all the territory they have seized since they overran the capital, Sanaa, in September 2014. President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadifled into exile in Saudi Arabia in March, but international airstrikes and ground troops have helped his forces recapture much of the south.

Earlier this week, a local affiliate of the "Islamic State" group took credit for an attack on a hotel used

by government troops in Aden

. Last week, the coalition claimed to have intercepted an

arms shipment for the rebels

from Iran.

mkg/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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