Published:  12:00 AM, 19 March 2017

Boat fire kills 42 at Yemen coast

Boat fire kills 42  at Yemen coast The boat was carrying up to 160 people, according to IOM, when an unknown assailant attacked it early Friday. -AP

At least 42 refugees have been killed and dozens injured after the boat they were traveling on was fired upon off Yemen's western coast, according to the International Organiza-tion for Migration (IOM).

The boat was carrying up to 160 people when an unknown assailant attacked it early Friday, IOM spokesman Joel Millman said. At least 24 of the injured were being treated at nearby hospitals but dozens more were unaccounted for, he said, reports CNN.

According to the IOM, witnesses have given conflicting accounts of whether a helicopter or a motorized military vessel opened fire on the boat. There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack. Many of the victims were believed to have originated in Somalia, but it is not yet clear how many, the General Consul for the Somali General Consulate in Yemen Ahmed Abdi Hassan told CNN. The attack took place in a "military area," he said.

The UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) said Friday that the refugees were being carried across the Red Sea en route to Sudan. "As conditions in Yemen deteriorate as a result of the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis, refugees and asylum seekers are increasingly fleeing onwards, following established migratory routes, including across the Red Sea to Sudan with the intention of heading onwards to Europe.

"This tragic incident is the latest in which innocent civilians, including Yemenis, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, continue to suffer and disproportionately bear the brunt of the conflict in Yemen," it said in a statement.

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