SAA10009 - Dahyan Bus Bombing

April 30, 2019

Incident ID: SAA10009
Location: Dahyan, Saada Governorate, Yemen
Coordinates: 17.064206°, 43.601578°
Incident Grading: Confirmed
Date: 2018-08-09
Time (AST): 0825 AST

WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT

KEY FINDINGS

- A Saudi-led coalition air-delivered munition struck a bus carrying a number of children on August 9, 2018. The strike took place in the morning hours at approximately 8:25 AM GMT+3 and hit a crowded marketplace.

- Imagery of a guidance fin displayed by media outlets and Human Rights Watch point to a GBU-12 Paveway II as the munition used in the strike and images published by the Saudi-led coalition show the apparent targeting of the bus and its aftermath on the day of the strike.

- The strike killed and wounded several children who were traveling on the bus for a field trip as well as a number of children nearby in the marketplace.

WHERE?

Houthi forces, the Saudi-led coalition, independent non-governmental organizations, and open source evidence all concur that the incident took place in Dahyan, Yemen, on the north side of the N1 road which runs through the town, in the approximate vicinity of 17.064206° 43.601578°.

Overhead drone footage of the scene of the incident published by the Houthi-aligned Al Masirah news channel on August 10, 2018 shows a damaged building.

Screenshot of the August 10, 2018 Al Masirah video showing overhead footage of the scene of Dahyan incident with highlights of the affected complex in red and purple highlights of a roof structure across the street.

Screenshot of Google Earth satellite imagery with corresponding highlights of the affected building complex in red (courtesy of Google/DigitalGlobe)

A comparison of the highlights from the overhead video and Google Earth imagery from June 25, 2018.

The August 12, 2018 video published by Al Masirah appears to be the most useful footage available for locating the scene of the incident because the fresh wounds on children scene bleeding and uncoagulated blood in front of bus wreckage and uncleared human remains suggests the footage was taken relatively close to the time of the incident, when there would be fewer opportunities to disturb the scene.  

Top and bottom: Children still bleeding from wounds with uncoagulated blood stains visible in the background place the time of recording relatively close to the time when the children would have sustained injuries in the incident.  

At 3:14 in the video, the camera person stands amidst the wreckage. At 3:19, the camera records the street while standing next to the bus wreckage.

The footage at 3:19 shows three areas of reference: a sign with red Arabic script on one side of an intersection (purple rectangle), a white awning across the street from the sign at the intersection (yellow rectangle, and an apparent crater in the ground in front of the bus wreckage (red rectangle). The sign, the white awning, and the crater are also apparent in those positions when viewed from across the street, as the overhead footage from August 10, 2018 Al Masirah video illustrated.

Screenshot from an August 10, 2018 video published by Al Masirah network. From left to right, the purple highlighted box shows a sign across the intersection similarly highlighted in purple in the August 12, 2018 video recorded from the position of the bus wreckage, the yellow highlighted box shows the rectangle-like white roof structure similarly highlighted in yellow  in Google Earth imagery of the location in both the August 10 and August 12, 2018 Al Masirah videos, and the red box shows the location of the bus wreckage and impact crater.

In the scene, two trees are visible behind the man’s head. This is consistent with two trees on the north side of the N1 road that runs northwest the scene of the incident in satellite imagery.

Top: Two trees are visible over the shoulder of a man loading human remains into a flatbed truck at an intersection in this video. Bottom: Google Earth screenshot, June 25, 2016 showing the position of the trees highlighted in a red rectangle and the approximate position of the man in the vicinity of the blue circle. (courtesy of Google/Digital Globe)

More specifically, the scene of the bus wreckage appears to be located at  17.064206° 43.601578°. That location is consistent with the structural damage scene in the August 10, 2018 video.


Screenshot from the August 10, 2018 video of Dahyan, which features overhead imagery of the incident site.

Further comparison of the August 10, 2018 Al Masirah overhead footage and the 55 minute video which appears to have been recorded closer to the time period surrounding the strike shows that this location is the same in both videos.


The drone video shows four stall doors surrounding the bus wreckage moving from left to right in the footage: to the left is a partially visible stall door surrounded by two open stall portals, capped by another blue stall door on the right with blue, graffiti-like writing on it.

Stall doors highlighted in a cropped version of the screenshot of August 10, 2018 Al Masirah video.

At 0:33 in the August 10, 2018 video which features footage overhead imagery of the incident site, the video cuts to a ground-level recording of a man walking past those four stalls. The ground-level view shows that the stall door to the left is blue, a partially visible stall door to its right is tan, the door to the stall to the right of it is not visible, and the stall door to the right of that is blue, as well, with similar blue graffiti-like writing apparent.

In this footage, the bus wreckage is located approximately between the stall with the yellow, partially visible door and the open stall with no visible door.

Highlights of the stall doors and their relative position from a ground level view in the Al Masirah video featuring overhead footage of the incident location.

The bus wreckage is visible at 3:11 in the same approximate position in the 55 minute footage,  which appears to have been recorded closer to the time of the strike based upon the fresh wounds from apparent survivors still present, uncoagulated blood, and uncleared human remains still visible at the scene.

Highlight of the relative position of stall doors in the 55 minute Al Masirah video.

That bracketing of the bus wreckage in between stalls is also apparent in a video tweeted by the Houthi Ansar Allah Media Center Twitter account showing the bus wreckage. Between 0:00 and 0:04, the camera pans across the sweep of the bus wreckage showing a similar pattern of the wreckage’s position relative to the stall doors.


A dirt-covered four-legged, table-like structure and box-like device of some kind to the right of the bus wreckage in the Asnar Allah Media Center video, the August 10, 2017 Al Masirah video, and the 55 minute Al Masirah video. These structures are visible in slightly different positions throughout the course of the videos, suggesting that some debris may have been moved throughout the course of the various videos’ recording.

Cabinet-like object highlighted in purple and a cooler-like device highlighted in red from the Asnar Allah Media Center video.

Cooler-like device highlighted in red from the August 10 2017 Al Masirah video.

Cabinet-like object highlighted in purple in the 55 minute Al Misirah video.


The approximate coordinates of the bus wreckage based on its appearance in the three videos is 17.064206° 43.601578°. Independent investigations have also pinpointed Dahyan, in general, and the same approximate vicinity of these coordinates. In its January 25, 2019 report, the UN Panel of Experts concluded that the bus was struck “in the vicinity of the Dayhan market, in Sa’dah” and specifically at the coordinates of 17.0642222°, 043.6016111°. Human Rights Watch also concluded that the incident took place in Dahyan.

Screenshot of Google Earth imagery from June 25, 2018 showing the relative positions of locations for the incident assessed by the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen (“UN Panel of Experts Coordinates”) and this Researcher (courtesy of Google/DigitalGlobe).

WHEN?

Witness accounts, third party investigations, and statements by both the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi movement concur that the incident took place on August 9, 2018. Security camera footage, witness accounts, third party investigations, open source analysis all point to a conclusion that the strike took place in the morning at around 0825 AST.

Photos and statements posted Twitter bracket the upper limit of when a strike could have taken place to somewhere around 0900 AST.

On August 9, 2018, Twitter accounts affiliated with news outlets and the Houthi movement began to tweet news of a strike in Dahyan around 0930 AST.

Another account, @34164eebe92f4c8, tweeted a photo at 0938 AST bearing no Houthi media outlet or news organization logo showing children’s corpses in the back of a white and black pickup truck’s flatbed. The photo appears to be among the earliest pieces of visual evidence on Twitter concluding that a strike had taken place. The black pipe frame surrounding the back of the truck cab, the ridges in the flatbed, the red and black patterned and tan blankets match the flatbed of a pickup truck in the Al Masirah video taken on August 9.  The same truck, child’s corpse, and blankets are visible in a video taken at the scene of the incident and subsequently published by Al Maisarah. This establishes that the @34164eebe92f4c8 photo was taken at or near the scene of the Dahyan incident at 0938 AST at the latest.

Top: Photo published on Twitter by the @34164eebe92f4c8 account published at 9:38 AM on August 9, 2018. Bottom: highlights of the blankets visible in the @34164eebe92f4c8 photo.


The same man, truck, and blankets are visible in a separate video posted by Al Masirah and published on August 9, 2018.


A picture of a dead child in a blue thobe with heavy trauma around his chest and swaddled in a tan blanket is present in both this Al Masirah video and the 0938 AST August 9, 2018 photo published on twitter.


The earliest apparent mention of the strike came on social media was published on Twitter at approximately 0900 AST from an alleged witness to the incident. At 0901 AST time August 9, 2018, the account @alraoood tweeted a statement that “dozens” of children had been “martyred” in a strike in the market of Dahyan. At 1449 AST on August 9, 2018, the @alarood account claimed to be present in Dahyan that day.

The 0900-0930 AST stream of statements and posts about an incident brackets and accommodates the time frame offered by CCTV footage from two cameras purporting to show the moment of the strike. The timestamps on the two videos show date the strike to approximately 8:24:26 on August 9, 2018 and 8:21:37 on August 9, 2018.

Top: A screengrab from CCTV footage published on YouTube by the Yemen Press Agency showing an explosion, highlighted in red, at the scene of the incident at 8:24 on the camera’s clock. Bottom left and right: A CCTV camera shows an explosion at 8:21 on the camera’s clock.

It’s unclear what accounts for the approximately three minute discrepancy in the timestamps or whether the clocks set in those CCTVs necessarily correspond to correct time.

But that time is consistent with witness statements from independent investigations conducted into the incident. Human Rights Watch said it spoke to “14 witnesses, including 9 children” who estimated that the strike took place “shortly before 8:30 a.m.” A documentary on the incident produced and distributed by the Houthi aligned Al Masirah TV channel features an interview with a man named Ali Hassan who claimed to work in the market area near the strike. Hassan estimated that the strike took place “At almost 8:25 AM.”

The UN Panel of Experts concluded that the strike took place at approximately “0825 hrs” and said that the Saudi-led coalition’s Joint Incidents Assessment Team  “confirmed to the Panel during a meeting in Ryadh [sic] in December 2018 that a vehicle was targeted at 0825 hrs.”

WHAT DAMAGE WAS DONE?

TO WHO?

The incident primarily damaged a bus used to transport school children. The bus was parked in a market area of Dahyan and destroyed the front area of an apparent market stall, and killed a number of individuals present in the market at the time.

Independent investigations, Houthi media outlets, and witness statements all concur that the explosion in the Dahyan market struck a bus used to transport children traveling on a field trip.

Independent investigations

A report on the Dahyan incident, prepared by the Houthi Ministry of Human Rights and provided to the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen, contained an itinerary for the bus trip, which allegedly began in Dahyan, included a stop at a Houthi cemetery in Ja’milah, further northwest up the the N1 road from Dahyan, and a return southeast along the N1 with the intended ultimate destination of Saada.  The report provided to the UN Panel of Experts states that the bus stopped in Dahyan at approximately 0900 AST for the children to buy water and food when the strike later took place.

Human Rights Watch spoke to children who said they were on the bus and affirmed that they were ”part of a summer program, which began in June, to study at the Grand Mosque from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. daily, except Thursdays and Fridays.”

Houthi media outlets

A documentary on the incident produced by the Houthi-aligned Al Masirah network featured the claim of Ali Hassan, an alleged witness that the children on the bus were on a  “summer trip and between spiritual sport in which they performed their last prayer.”  

Houthi-aligned Al Masirah TV published footage purportedly recorded by one of the children on the bus showing a number of children playing inside the vehicle and in a Houthi martyrs cemetery shortly before the strike.

Witness statements

Zaid Hamran appeared in an Al Jazeera documentary and identified his son, Usama, as the child who recorded the video on the bus and in the cemetery. “My son Usama took pictures on his mobile phone. He filmed their trip on the bus” he told interviewers. “One afternoon, my son Usama said they’d go on a school trip. He asked me to charge the mobile phone so he could take pictures. Zaid’s son’s name appears on a both the lists of alleged dead and wounded in the Dahyan incident published by the Houthi Ministry of Education and ansarollah.com.

Zaid Tayyib also appeared in the Al Jazeera documentary and claimed to have put his children on the bus in the early morning. “I was 150 meters away from the bus. Id’ dropped my children, given them some stuff, put them on the bus and left. They waved goodbye.” Tayyib also noticed the presence of military aircraft overhead when he put his children on the bus in the morning. “I saw reconnaissance aircraft, backed by war planes, hovering over the area.” When the strike took place later, Tayyib said he discovered the bodies of two of his sons Ahmed and Yousef at the scene, but was unable to find his son, Ali, and assumed “[h]is body was probably torn to pieces.” Their names appear in on both the Houthi Ministry of Education and Ansarollah.com list of the dead and wounded.

CNN interviewed Yahya Hussein, who identified himself as a teacher at the school where the children went. Hussein said he was late and missed the field trip but that it had been planned at a rebel cemetery because “The nicest areas are the martyr's shrines and mosques" since the war had destroyed many parks and greenspaces.

Children

Dead children and children with fresh wounds and uncoagulated blood are visible throughout the 55 minute Al Masirah video recorded at the scene of the incident.


The presence of so many dead and injured children at the scene of the incident is consistent with accounts provided by Houthi forces as well as independent investigators.

The Houthi Ministry of Education published a list on August 18, 2018 with what it claimed were the names of 38 people killed in the strike and 55 wounded, four of whom were allegedly adult teachers and 34 of whom were children. The ages of the children on the list range from nine to 15 years old. The UN Panel of Experts report cited and consulted a forensic pathologist who noted “clear and straightforward evidence of injuries from an explosion involving both living and dead children.” The panel said it was neither able to independently verify the “media and humanitarian organizations” reports” which assessed “[a]pproximately 43 killed and 63 wounded, the majority of whom were children,” in the incident nor the list of dead and wounded published by the Houthi Ministry of Education.

In addition to the Houthi Ministry of Education list, ansarollah.com, a website controlled by the Houthi Ansar Allah movement, published its own list of the purported dead and wounded in the Dahyan incident. That list claimed 51 people were killed in the Dahyan incident and 79 injured. The list includes a number of unnamed individuals presented without ages. The ages of some of the children who appear on both lists do not match.

The panel spoke to four witnesses to the incident, who asserted that there were many dead and wounded, a number of whom were children.

Non-governmental organizations concurred that a number of children were among the dead and wounded at the site. In a statement released on the day of the incident, Save the Children said that “[d]ozens of children aged between 6 and 14” were “feared dead” and injured, according to its staff. Human Rights Watch’s investigation concluded that the attack “killed at least 26 children and wounded at least 19 more.” The International Committee of the Red Cross’s operations coordinator stated on the day of the incident that ”50 people died and 77 were injured” and that a hospital in Al Talh supported by the ICRC “received 30 dead and 48 injured, of which the vast majority were children.” Marta Rivas Blanco, a nurse with the ICRC mobile surgical team at the Al Talh hospital where many of those wounded in the incident were treated, wrote in a piece for The Guardian that the “emergency room was full” after the incident, which necessitated the implementation of a mass casualty plan.

Witness accounts provided to investigators, accounts provided by Houthi movement outlets, and open source analysis of videos from the day of the strike support the account that many of the children affected by the strike were from two schools:  from  on a school trip to a Houthi martyrs cemetery on the day of the strike, their bus stopped in Dahyan for refreshments, and was subsequently attacked, leading to the large number of children among the dead and wounded.

Open source analysis buttresses the claim that the bus destroyed in the Dahyan incident is the same bus in the video used to transport school children on a trip.

At least two children visible in the bus and cemetery footage are seen in the hospital wounded after the strike. The presence of the same children, wearing the same clothes, on the bus, in the cemetery, and wounded at the hospital establishes that those children and other depicted in the bus and cemetery video were present at the strike and affected by it.

The first child was wearing a red and blue stripe-pattern shirt with blue pants and is visible on the bus, in the cemetery compound, and at the hospital after the strike.


He appears in the same shirt on a bed in a hospital after the strike in an Al Masirah video.

Top and bottom: The child seen in a red and blue stripe-pattern shirt and blue pants in the bus and cemetery video is seen receiving medical care with other apparent victims of the explosion in the 55 minute Al Masirah video.

A second child wearing a gray thobe, red undershirt, and bright blue bookbag is visible in footage of the children at the cemetery compound and in a video of wounded being carried into a hospital. He is only one of two children visible in the bus and cemetery footage wearing the distinctive bright blue bookbags.


He is visible being carried into the hospital after the strike with the same red undershirt, gray thobe, and still wearing his bright blue bookbag and has blood on his head, hands, clothes and legs. Al Jazeera coverage of the strike identified one of the children wounded in the strike as Mokhtar al Jaradi. Pictures of Al-Jaradi published by Al Jazeera show that he is the child with the blue bookbag in the cemetery footage and in the hospital footage.

Top and bottom: Child in grey thobe, red undershirt, and bright blue bookbag is carried into the hospital covered in blood in Al Masirah report.

In addition to children attending the school trip, witness statements given to Human Rights Watch indicate that people in the area at the time of the incident may have also been killed by the explosion.

Human Rights Watch spoke to Tarash Ahmad Salam al-Sam’ae told the group the strike took place 4.5 meters from his barber shop and injured his 14 and 16 year old sons, Ibrahim and Abdulrahman. Their names appear on both the Houthi Ministry of Education and Ansarollah.com lists of the wounded but with varying ages from the Human Rights Watch report.

In addition to children, Human Rights Watch said said it documented the deaths of three teachers and two men who were present in the vicinity of the explosion. Witnesses told the group that three children who were not a part of the field trip approached the bus when it was parked. All three are listed among the dead in the Houthi Ministry of Education’s list.

TO WHAT?

The area affected by the Dahyan incident was a crowded market as documented by witnesses, satellite imagery, open source imagery, and imagery from the Saudi-led coalition.

Witnesses

Ali Hassan, a purported witness to the incident, appeared in a documentary produced by the Houthi-controlled Al Masirah network. “At almost 8:25 AM, we were too busy with our daily work as usual inside the market. It was too crowded with a lot of people. Suddenly we heard a sound of huge explosion inside the market between the Qat market and the grape shops (fruit market). Exactly at the most crowded”

Human Rights Watch also spoke to a witnesses who described the location as a market, including Ahmed Muhammad Ali Swayed, who told the group that “The market was busy and the bus was full of boys.”

Satellite imagery

Historical satellite imagery from the scene of the incident shows densely parked vehicles consistent with market activity.

Open source imagery

The CCTV footage of the strike shows the area around the incident was relatively crowded with vehicles both before and after the incident.

Left to right: CCTV footage shows a busy thoroughfare before the strike and vehicles fleeing the area afterwards

A review of satellite imagery from both before and after the Dahyan incident shows the awning and roof structures above the affected market stalls damaged, consistent with videos published showing the the scene of strike.

Saudi-led coalition imagery

On September 1, 2018, Saudi news outlets published what appears to be an image taken by an aircraft above the location of the strike with a crosshair on top of a bus-like vehicle. Arab News published the photo accompanying an article about a JIAT statement on the incident. The image, and a second one showing the apparent aftermath of the Dahyan strike, were presented by JIAT spokesman Al-Mansour at a press briefing.

Arab News screenshot of a press conference by JIAT spokesman Mansour Al-Mansour. The red dot is a laser pointer used by Al-Mansour to highlight the image.

The structures around the first image and the vehicle in the reticule are consistent with the location of the incident and the bus wreckage found at the scene.

Overlay of the Arab News photo on top of Google Earth imagery of the location of the Dahyan incident conducted by the Researcher with varying levels of transparency on the Arab News image. The Arab News image was taken at a different angle than the Google Earth June 25, 2018 image and Researcher corrected it to account for the difference in angles. (satellite image courtesy of Google/DigitalGlobe)

The first photo in the September 1, 2018 JIAT press conference does not appear to resolve an issue highlighted by the UN Panel of Experts in their report on the Dahyan incident. In it January 2019 report, the panel noted that, after the strike, “The wrecked bus is facing the direction opposite to the one it should be facing based on the sequence of the itinerary described during the alleged visit.”

The itinerary for the children aboard the bus provided to the panel by the Houthi Ministry of Human Rights indicated that the bus stopped and parked on its way southeast along the N1 road as it headed towards the Imam al Hadi mosque in Saada. Wreckage of the bus filmed at the incident, however, shows the seats of the bus facing in the opposite direction, towards the northwest. Given the lower resolution of the first photograph presented in the JIAT briefing, it’s unclear which direction the bus is parked in the image.

Cropped screenshot of the September 1, 2018 JIAT press conference showing the apparent aftermath of the August 9, 2018 Dahyan strike. The red rectangle appears to highlight the former position of the bus and the red dot is Al-Mansour’s laser pointer.

A second displayed during the JIAT briefing shows the apparent aftermath of the strike.

A comparison of the parked vehicle placement in the first and second images displayed at the September 1, 2018 JIAT press conference show the images were taken at approximately the same time. Oval highlights in yellow and blue added by Researcher. Red rectangle highlight by JIAT.

The parked vehicles near the bus’s location are consistent with the evidence provided by historical satellite imagery and witness statements attesting to the fact that the explosion took place in a known, crowded marketplace.

Left: Screenshot of June 25, 2018 Google Earth Satellite imagery showing the Dahyan incident location highlighted in red before approximately two months before the explosion. Right: Screenshot of September 16, 2018.

Satellite imagery taken before and after the incident confirms the structural damage to the building affected in the Dahyan incident as apparent in ground-level imagery of the area. The roof and awning of the area near the crater and bus wreckage is damaged in the post-incident image, consistent with the damage seen in the second image presented in the September 1, 2018 JIAT press conference.

WHAT DO PARTIES TO CONFLICT SAY AND DOES IT STAND UP?

THE SLC

The Saudi-led coalition coalition acknowledged that it had carried out the airstrike in an August 9, 2018 statement, which asserted that the strike was conducted “to target the militants responsible for planning and targeting civilians, which resulted in killing and injuring them, last night in Jazan.” The statement asserted that the targets of the strike were allegedly Houthi militant leaders responsible for conducting ballistic missile launches on the Saudi city of Jizan.

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki al Maliki stated that the August 9 strike in Dahyan was a response to a ballistic missile launch on Jizan the day before. Saudi news outlets reported on August 8, 2018 that Saudi missile defenses had intercepted a ballistic missile which landed in the Abu Arish neighborhood in Saudi Arabia’s Jizan province. The missile was allegedly launched by Houthi militants in Amran governorate, which lies south of Saada province, where the Dahyan strike took place.   

Open source evidence cannot verify the claim that Houthi leaders responsible for drone strikes were in the vicinity of the Dahyan strike on August 9, 2018.

Only one armed man is apparent in video released from the scene of the strike and its near aftermath. A man armed with an AK-pattern rifle on his back is visible clearing human remains from the scene of the incident from 3:35 to 3:36 in the August 12, 2018 video. The presence of bright red uncoagulated blood in the vicinity of human remains at the scene suggests that the scene took place relatively close to the time of the incident. He is again visible in a subsequent scene from 3:46 to 3:55 without a rifle on his back.


No other small arms are visible within the vicinity of the bus wreckage or surroundings. There are no apparent witnesses who reported seeing large numbers of armed men or Houthi military activity on that day.

CNN reported that Col. Maliki stated that "No, this is not children in the bus," he said. "We do have high standard measures for targeting (sic)." Those claims are undermined by the previously documented wounded and dead children in and near the wreckage of the bus on August 9, 2018, the video allegedly recorded by Zaid Hamran’s son, Usama, showing children who showed up to the hospital wounded on August 9, 2018 present on the bus in the same clothes.

The Coalition issued a further denial after the HRW report, again saying there were no children: The bus attacked on August 9 was "a legitimate target," Colonel Turki al-Malki, the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, said in an interview with CNN.  He reiterated that the only mistake that had been made was the timing.

Al Maliki stated that intelligence information showed that the bus was "not a school bus because there is no school at that time when the incident happened…” “We never observed any kids on the bus," al-Malki said, adding the "coalition conducted the attack against Houthi commanders and some Houthi element fighters in that bus." In relation to the ubiquitous images of the dead and wounded children, Al-Malki said:

"Is it by the Houthi? Or what's the source for that picture and videos?"

On September 1, 2018, JIAT spokesman Mansour al-Mansour said that JIAT’s investigation showed “an order had been given not to target the bus, which was among civilians, but the order arrived late” and that the strike was based on intelligence that the bus was “transporting Houthi leaders.” He also said that “an order had been given not to target the bus, which was among civilians, but the order arrived late.”

On September 1, 2018 the Saudi Joint Forces Command released a statement saying there had been ”mistakes in compliance to the Rules of Engagement” when conducting the strike and and pledged to “undertake legal proceedings to hold the ones who committed mistakes accountable.”

THE HOUTHIS

The Houthi movement and its media outlets stated that the incident was an airstrike on a group of children who had been visiting religious locations on the day, calling it the “Dahyan Massacre”. Their statements are consistent with this news report, filmed inside Sa’ada General hospital, posted on August 15 2018. The video included an interview with one of the children who survived the airstrike, identified as Ahmad Mohammad Hansh. Ahmad proceeds to say that when the airstrike occurred, he lost consciousness and the first thing he recalled was being sent to the hospital. The video also identifies 3 other children.

Screen-shot from Al-Masirah video identifying Ahmad Hansh.


OTHER STATEMENTS

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a press briefing that the U.S. is “concerned about these reports that resulted – that there was an attack that resulted in the deaths of civilians” and called“on the Saudi-led coalition to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Gu released a statement on August 9, 2018 expressing his condemnation of the airstrike “which hit a busy market area in Majz District and impacted a bus carrying children from a summer camp” and said local health workers confirmed “that scores of people were killed and injured, the majority of them children between 10 and 13 years old.”

WHAT BOMB WAS USED?

Witness accounts and imagery of a guidance fin allegedly found at the scene suggest that a GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided bomb caused the explosion.

CRATER

An impact crater is apparent in multiple sources of imagery of the scene of the incident. The crater sits approximately a meter or two off of the curb in the northern side of the N1 road in Dahyan and slightly to the southeast of the stalls where the bus wreckage sat in footage recorded and published shortly after the attack depicted. The crater is not visible in Google Earth satellite imagery.

Crater visible in footage published by the Houthi-aligned Al Masirah network seen in the near aftermath of the incident.

Impact crater visible in footage broadcast by RT Arabic on YouTube.

Impact crater visible in footage published by the Houthi Ansar Allah Media Center on Twitter

Screenshot of a photo published by Yemen’s Center for Human Rights and Development

A photograph of a man standing in the bottom of the crater with approximately half of his body below ground level suggests a crater depth of about 2.5 to 3 feet or .76 to .9 meters. The photograph is time-stamped at August 10, 2018 or a day after the incident. The UN Panel of Experts on Yemen assessed the crater depth to be .8 meters.

REMNANTS

Houthi and local sources presented reporters and Human Rights Watch with an apparent guidance fin for a GBU-12 Paveway II munition. The munition is a plausible culprit for the strike, given the markings, independent reporting on its acquisition shortly after the strike, its documented exclusive availability to the Saudi-led coalition, and its prior use by the coalition in the Yemen conflict. News organizations established a partial chain of custody for the munitions remnants but the chain of custody cannot be recreated or verified through other open source evidence.

Both Human Rights Watch and CNN reported that they had obtained access to an apparent Paveway fragment with a 94271 Lockheed Martin cage code and a separate cage code, 3LCX2, associated with General Dynamics.

CNN’s account that the munition remnant was “filmed in the immediate aftermath of the attack” and was “sent to CNN by a contact in Saada” places it possession of the imagery closest to the time of the incident. It reported that it was subsequently able to confirm the existence of the fin depicted in the imagery “when a cameraman working for CNN filmed footage of the shrapnel after the cleanup operation had begun.”

Human Rights Watch did not obtain access to imagery of the same munitions fragment until August 11, 2018, when it reported that “a lawyer based in Sanaa, about 235 kilometers south of Saada” provided it.


CNN did not publish the imagery it obtained of the munition remnant until August 17, 2018. The earliest apparent publication of the munitions remnant imagery was on August 11, 2018, when a Twitter account posted similar footage of the fin seen in the CNN photo and a press conference broadcast by Al Masirah TV which displayed the remnant and other purported munitions wreckage. The pattern of scuff marks on the remnant in both sets of imagery, in addition to the dual cage codes, establish that the two sets of imagery depict the same object.

Human Rights Watch reported that it obtained imagery of a munition remnant from “a lawyer based in Sanaa,” far away from the scene of the incident, on August 11, 2018. The lawyer claimed to have visited Dahyan after the incident and had taken photographs and videos of munitions remnants found at the scene. The group was unable to confirm that the munition remnant were found at the scene and did not publish the imagery, but reported that its imagery displayed the same 3LCX2 cage code used by General Dynamics as well as one associated with Lockheed Martin.

Screengrab from the video tweeted by the @A_mtrz account showing a Lockheed cage code (94271) and a General Dynamics cage code (3LCX2).

At a press conference on August 11, 2018 held at the scene of the incident, the wreckage of a munition purportedly found at the scene of the incident was displayed. That remnant bears identical scuff marks and cage codes as the imagery published by CNN on August 17, 2018 and the @A_mtrz account published on Twitter on August 11, 2018.

Screenshots from a press conference recorded and published by Al Masirah news on August 11, 2018 show identical scuff marks and cage codes in the munition remnant presented there as the remnant seen in imagery published by CNN and on Twitter.

This Researcher consulted with a munitions expert and shared the imagery of the remnant posted on Twitter. The munitions expert concluded that the remnant was a guidance fin which belonged to a GBU-12 Paveway II. The GBU-12 Paveway II munition includes a Paveway laser guidance kit attached to a 500 lb MK82 bomb.

Location of guidance fins on a GBU-12 Paveway II in a reference image of the munition being loaded onto an F-35B by US. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The munitions expert said he could not reliably determine the purpose of the two separate manufacturer’s cage codes on the fragment but hypothesized that the dual cage codes could refer to both the manufacturer of the fin and the manufacturer of the larger guidance kit to which it was attached.

The Saudi-led coalition is the only party to the conflict in Yemen documented in possession of functional GBU-12 Paveway II munitions and the means to deliver them. In 2015, the U.S. State Department approved the sale of 4,020 GBU-12 Paveway II munitions to Saudi Arabia as part of a larger package of precision-guided munitions sales. The State Department also approved the sale of 5,940 GBU-12 Paveway guidance kits to the United Arab Emirates along with the same number of MK82 500 lb bombs in November 2016.

The documented use of GBU-12 Paveway II munitions by the Saudi-led coalition in strikes throughout the Yemen conflict adds credence to the munitions fragments allegedly recovered from the Dahyan incident scene.

Human Rights Watch discovered marked fragments of two GBU-12 Paveway II munitions at the scene of a strike on a water well drilling site in Arhab, Yemen on September 10, 2016. JIAT and the Saudi-led coalition did not dispute that their forces conducted an airstrike in Arhab on that date but instead said that the bombing was an “unintended mistake.”

The GBU-12 Paveway II is a laser guided munition which requires an operator to illuminate an intended target with a laser, which the Paveway guidance kit uses to identify and orient towards.

WAS IT AN AIRSTRIKE?

The incident in Dahyan was the result of an airstrike. Houthi forces assert and the Saudi-led coalition has admitted that the incident in question was the result of an airstrike. Witness accounts of aircraft overhead at the time of the explosion, the alleged recovery of fragments consistent with a GBU-12 Paveway II munition, and an appropriately-sized impact crater at the scene all buttress the assertions by the parties to the conflict that a bus in Dahyan was destroyed by a Saudi-led coalition airstrike.  

CONTEXT

The Saudi-led coalition has conducted controversial airstrikes in the Dahyan area prior to the August 9, 2018 bus bombing. In January, the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres reported that a coalition airstrike hit an ambulance driver working for the group.  

Footnotes and links to be found in downloadable PDF.