(Refiles to remove reference to helicopter in first paragraph.)
DUBAI, March 19 A Saudi-led coalition fighting
in Yemen called on Sunday for the United Nations to place a
strategic port under its supervision after 42 Somalis were
killed in an attack on their refugee boat nearby.
The refugees had departed from the western port city of
Hodeidah en route to Sudan when it came under fire in an
incident aid workers said had involved a helicopter
The Red Sea port near the Bab al-Mandab strait is under the
control of Yemen's armed Houthi movement, which has been
fighting Saudi Arabia and its allies in a two-year-old conflict.
While the Arab alliance denied responsibility for the attack
on Friday, it called for jurisdiction over Hodeidah port to be
transferred to the U.N.
"This would facilitate the flow of humanitarian supplies to
the Yemeni people, while at the same time ending the use of the
port for weapons smuggling and people trafficking," it said in a
statement. It did not address a call by Somalia to investigate.
It is still unclear who was behind the assault.
"We do not know who carried it out, but survivors said they
came under attack from another boat at 9 p.m., the crew used
lights and shouted to signal this is a civilian boat," Iolanda
Jaquemet, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the
Red Cross, has said.
"Nevertheless, it did not have any effect and a helicopter
joined in the attack," she said.
Hodeidah is part of a broad battlefront where forces loyal
to Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, backed by the
Saudi-led coalition, are fighting the Iran-allied Houthi
movement, which controls most of northern and western Yemen.
The Saudi-led coalition was formed in 2015 to fight the
Houthis and troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh,
who have fired missiles into neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
The Bab al-Mandab is a strategic waterway through which
nearly 4 million barrels of oil are shipped daily.
(Reporting by William Maclean; Writing by Stephen Kalin;
Editing by Elaine Hardcastle, Larry King)