Death Toll From Airstrike On Yemen Wedding Party Soars To 131

A Saudi-led Arab coalition has strongly denied any role in the wedding party carnage.

SANAA, Sept 29 (Reuters) - The death toll from an air strike on a wedding party in Yemen has jumped to 131, medics said on Tuesday, in one of the deadliest attacks on civilians in Yemen's war that drew strong condemnation from the U.N. secretary-general.

A Saudi-led Arab coalition that has air supremacy over Yemen has strongly denied any role in the wedding party carnage, and a coalition spokesman suggested that local militias may have fired the projectiles.

Residents said on Monday that two missiles tore through tents in the Red Sea village of Al-Wahijah, near the port of Al-Mokha, where a local man affiliated with the Houthis was holding his wedding reception.

A medical source at a local hospital in Maqbana, where the casualties were taken, said on Tuesday that the death toll from the attack had risen to 131, from 27 reported on Monday.

The Arab coalition began air strikes in March in a bid to drive the war's dominant armed faction, Iranian-allied Houthi forces, out of wide swathes of the country seized since last year, and to reinstate President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Pro-Hadi government forces backed by local militias, Gulf troop reinforcements and air raids have taken back some terrain from the Houthis including the southern port of Aden, where Hadi has set up a temporary base after returning from Saudi exile.

But international rights groups have expressed alarm at the escalating number of civilian deaths in the Arabian Peninsula conflict - at least 2,355 out of more than 4,500 people killed from the end of March to Sept. 24, according to figures released by the U.N. Human Rights Office in Geneva on Tuesday.

(Additional reporting by William Maclean, Hadeel al-Sayegh and Marwa Al-Malik in Gulf region, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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