the home of online investigations

The Yemen Project: DHA10002 – Sanaban Wedding Strike

April 23, 2019

By Yemen Project

Translations: Русский

WHAT HAPPENED?

UGC and news reports indicate that most of the victims of the attack being women and children who were attending the wedding or part of the wedding party (1, 2, 3, 4). While there appear to be one or two people carrying weapons or dressed in military fatigues at the aftermath of the scene the next morning (see previous page), the majority of the people present at the site appear to have been civilians.

An image posted on Facebook identified the wedding as that of three brothers, Moayed, Ayman and Abdulrahman Ghoba. According to an article by a Sharif Abdel Kaddous, a journalist who visited the site for PRI, on 2015/10/07 Ayman and two of his brothers were getting married in a joint ceremony. Hundreds of relatives and neighbours would likely have come to take part. Their three-story house was reportedly brightly decorated.

At approximately 2200 AST the attack took place. Multiple witness statements (1, 2) claim that aircraft bombed this location.

To Whom?

An image of a traditional banner made to celebrate the wedding of the three brothers was posted by some news outlets.

Image of grooms posted by Yamanyoon. Note that this page contains other graphic images of the casualties.

In an image taken by the journalist Sharif Abdel Kouddous in Sanban, the graves of those killed in the strike are visible. These graves include one of the groomsmen, Abdulrahman Mohammed Saleh Ghouba and his sister Eman Mohammed Saleh Ghouba. Note the minaret in the top left of the image.

Image of the graves of those allegedly killed in this attack

The minaret seen in the image of the grave matches the minaret in Sanaban as seen in several photos posted on Google Earth (1, 2). This minaret is located at coordinates 14.423183, 44.663781. Due to this we believe that the image of the grave was taken in Sanaban’s graveyard.

Image of mosque from Google Maps

As the injured were moved into local hospitals, there was a demand for blood to treat the injured. In a Facebook group post, an image was taken showing volunteers donating blood. The post thanks the “sons of Dhamar” for donating blood to the hospitals and was posted on the group on 2015/10/08 at 0332 AST.

Post from the ahraralamen Facebook page

In the early hours of 2015/10/08 multiple images were posted on Facebook by different local news gathering groups and individuals in Yemen, showing injured children, men and a woman with severe burns. Using reverse image search, we identified that the images were unlikely to have been posted from previous incidents. The green bedding also matches bedding seen in this Yemen Today video.

Abdullah Qais Al-Sanabani

One of the children injured was identified as Abdullah Qais Al-Sanabani, a child prodigy who, according to Reuters “invented a solar-powered remote control car that could flip over and become a boat” This won him an international competition in 2012 and a free visit to NASA, the American space agency. Abdullah was also featured in a TedX Sana’a talk in 2013 where he spoke of his trip to the US and his invention. After the strike, a crowdfunded campaign was launched to send Abdullah to Shriners Children Hospital in Boston for treatment.

Image posted by Ryan Al-Sanabani‘s cousin on Facebook

Ryan Al-Sanabani’s cousin wrote in the comment that accompanied the above image: “Earlier this day my uncle, various doctors and myself stood around his hospital bed and explained to him that we wouldn’t be able to salvage some of the deeper injuries, that he would wake up Monday morning without a right arm above elbow and two toes short in his left foot. His father and I couldn’t help but shed tears as the doctor explained the condition to him, Abdullah nodded looked up at us and courageously said “’don’t be sad god willing i’ll be okay’”.

What kind of vehicles are present in the image and videos?

The only vehicles that appear to be present at the scene in open sources are cars that have been destroyed or damaged by the strike. According to reports and witness accounts, these are likely the cars that were part of the convoy bringing the brides and their families to the grooms house.

Composite image of the cars at the scene from the aftermath video

Verification of night-time videos

Although much of the media filmed at night is difficult to verify, two videos contain key pieces of footage showing people digging in the rubble of a building and rows of what appear to be covered bodies. These are the Yemen Today report and a video posted by the user Haitham al Ansi (henceforth called the Haitham video) which has a Yemen Today watermark, indicating it was originally filmed by them. Although the Haitham video was likely originally filmed by Yemen Today and shares large portions of footage, it has had music and effects added to make the video more dramatic.

We can identify that the Haitham video uses footage from the scene of this attack. In the Haitham video we can see several cars from 00:36.

Orientation of cars seen in the Haitham video. Arrows indicate which direction they are facing. A different coloured square in the rear indicates a pick-up truck.

  1. White car
  2.  Black SUV
  3. White saloon with yellow stripe
  4. Dark damaged car
  5. Silver car – front left door damaged
  6. White pick-up truck

What appear to be the same cars, in the same orientation, can be seen in the aftermath video, indicating that the Haitham video was filmed in the same place.

Cars in the aftermath video. The numbers reflect the cars seen in the Haitham video. Car 3 does not appear to be visible.

Further confirmation that these are the same cars is this Yemen Today post-incident report made the day after which again shows this group of cars, including the white saloon with a yellow stripe (number 3).

Cars in the Yemen Today post-incident report. The numbers reflect the cars seen in the Haitham video.

All these videos, including the Haitham video, the aftermath video and the Yemen Today post-incident report, depict the same group of cars in the same orientation. This demonstrates that some or all of the footage filmed at night was filmed at Building 1. Considering the amount of footage shared between the Haitham video and the Yemen Today report taken at night it also seems likely the Yemen Today report was also filmed in the vicinity of Building 1.

It should also be noted that this group of cars seem to be civilian in nature and do not appear to have had any modifications such as weapons mounts or armour.

Was it an airstrike?

The contextual information, and eyewitness statements describing planes flying overhead, strongly indicate that this was an airstrike.

Yemen Peace Project:  “‘The warplane was circling noticeably as the bridal convoy was approaching the village, and I heard it flying at low latitude to the northwest as the missile struck the house,’ said local resident Maher Mohammed Saleh, 30, who was some 10 meters away from the house. ‘I even heard the missile whizzing before it hit the house.’”

Furthermore, a Joint Incidents Assessment Team investigation confirmed that an airstrike was carried out in this vicinity on this date (although it denied the wedding was the target).

Who is in the background?

There are several witnesses and rescuers in the open source content, mostly men in civilian clothing. Footage taken inside the hospital shows victims of the strike, many of whom are children.

Child seen in hospital in report from Yemen Today

The people being interviewed in open sources appear to all be civilians, almost all men. They are not dressed in military uniforms and none of them appear to be armed. It is likely that several of these men were involved in the rescue efforts, as some are wearing headlamps and flashlights.

Man wearing headlamp during interview during report by Yemen Today

CASUALTIES

The casualty count for this strike varies. Here are the reports we found, from lowest to highest:

Samaa TV 13 fatalities, 38 wounded

The Telegraph 15 fatalities, 25 wounded

The New York Times 23 fatalities

The Irish Times 25 fatalities, 50 wounded

Eje Central 26 fatalities, 40 wounded

Al Hayat 28 fatalities, 20 wounded

CNN Arabic 30 fatalities

Human Rights Watch 43 fatalities

Yemen Peace Project 43 fatalities

Security Information Center, 43 fatalities, 65 wounded

Yaman Yoon 54 fatalities, 31 wounded

Casualty list

The Security Information Center (SIC), a Houthi-led government entity, also published the ages and names of the alleged fatalities (original in Arabic). It should be noted that the SIC appears to have made an editing error and only included 42 names:  

1- Gamal Salih Gwayeh, 50 years old

2 – Issam Jamal Saleh Guwayeh, 21 years old

3 – Mohammed Essam Jamal 3 years

4 – Nourhan Mohammed Jamal 6 Sinwan

5 – Gravity on tar 45 years

6 – Mohammed Saleh Ghweih, 55 years old

7 – Faiza Ahmad Nasser Al-Sanabani, 50 years old

8 – Abdulrahman Mohammed Saleh Gwayeh 22 years

9 – Tariq Abdulrahman Saleh Gwayeh 20 years

10 – Ayman Mohammed Saleh Gwayeh 25 years old

11 – Jamila Mohammed Saleh Guwayeh, 32 years old

12 – Saleh Anwar Rabah 13 years

13 – Mohammed Abdul Aziz Al – Balaysheh 18 years old

14 – Khalid Jubair Jamah, 23 years old

15 – Yousef Saleh Musleh Gwayeh 16 years old

17 – Salim Ahmed Al-Mardai, 32 years old

16 – N/A

18 – Mohammed Jalal Mohammed Saleh Gwayeh 7 years

19 – Anwar Mohammed Abdullah Almsmari 35 years

20 – Zaina Adnan Hassan Al-Sanabani 3 years

21 – Mohammed Mohammed Saleh Gwayeh 17 years

22 – Shehab Khaled Al Hadrami 10 years

23 – Mohammed Majed Nasser Ali Hassan 8 years

24 – Jamal Mohammed Saleh Gwayeh 28 years old

25 – Mohammed Abdulrahman Saleh Gwayeh 17 years

26 – Jamal Abdulrahman Saleh Gwayeh 12 years

27 – Sorour Marwan Saleh Ayed 12 years old

28 – Lamia Ali Abed Rabbo Ahmed Al Masri 8 years

29 – Rich Ammar Salah Al Masri 15 years

30 – Khadra Maqbel Salah 60 years

31 – Saleh Saleh Ahmed Salah 30 years

32 – Arwa ‘Abdraba al-Masri, 30 years old

33 – Amal Ali Abd Rabo Al Masri 40 years old

34 – Jamila Ali Abderba Al-Masri 18 years old

35 – Khadija Saleh Mohammed Al-Sayed 45 years old

36 – Ahlam Mohammed Mohammed Al Shahari 11 years

37 – Afaf Murad Al-Masri 12 years old

38 – Satisfied 50 years

39 – Reham Ammar Salah Al Masri 12 years

40 – Lady Ahmed Ali 30 years

41 – Share Ali Abdo Ahmed Shahari 35 years

42 – Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed Al-Masri 20 years

43 – Hadeel Mohammed Ahmed 11 years

 

STATEMENTS FROM PARTIES TO THE CONFLICT

Saudi-led Coalition (SLC)

The SLC denied involvement immediately following the airstrike, claiming:

“The coalition did not conduct any air strikes in that area. Ongoing fighting between the Houthis and other factions have been going on in that area. Not every time an explosion or an attack takes place, it is committed by the coalition. We do not target civilian areas.”

JIAT investigated the claim “that an airstrike killed at least 47 civilians and wounded 58 women and children during a wedding on 6 October [emphasis added]” and published its findings on 05/08/2016. JIAT claimed that:

reference to the records related to the flights show that no target was bombed on the province of (Dhamar) at the date of the claim, but the evaluation team…discussed the subject of operations which targeted the same area at close dates.

It became clear that an air strike took place on 2015-10-07 on the Dhamar-Rada’a-Al-Bayda road. A group of armed vehicles…were targeted at the precise coordinates on the asphalt road and there was no targeting of civilian objects in the same area.

It is worth noting that the wedding was actually targeted on 07/10/2015 (not 06/10/2015 as the JIAT statement claims), which is when JIAT confirms a strike did occur. JIAT said this strike targeted the same road which Building 1 is adjacent to, although based on our geolocation, the distance between the road mentioned by JIAT and Building 1 is approximately 162 meters. Furthermore, JIAT claims that a group of vehicles was targeted, it is possible that this is the same the convoy of cars that was escorting the brides and their families to the wedding location.

Houthi Government

The Houthi-aligned Yemeni Security Information Center, General Directorate of Moral Guidance and Public Relations, Ministry of Interior of Yemen published a list of casualties of the attack with names. The statement that accompanied this list blamed Saudi Arabia and stated that a wedding party had been attacked.

CONCLUSION

Taking into consideration the available open source information, it appears the most likely scenario is that on the evening of 07/10/2015 an airstrike hit Building 1 while a wedding party was taking place there. Despite JIAT denying they had targeted this wedding party, their statements appeared to contain inconsistencies.

Yemen Project

The Yemen Project will bring to light critical details about the conflict in Yemen. We aim produce verified material viable for court cases, aiding advocacy groups with reliable information, and working with other media organisations that wish to cover the conflict.

Join the Bellingcat Mailing List:

Enter your email address to receive a weekly digest of Bellingcat posts, links to open source research articles, and more.

Support Bellingcat

You can support the work of Bellingcat by donating through the below link:

5 Comments

  1. Max

    I don’t know if this is a mistake or not but I find iT a bit weird that multiple names in the list of fatalities do include ( or only exist of) english Words.

    Keep up the great work, IT is amazing to see people doing research to make more info available about these horific incidents.

    Reply
    • Brian Whitaker

      This is due to one of the quirks of Google Translate. It doesn’t always recognise Arabic names as names, and attempts to translate them. For example, the fifth-named person, listed as Mr “Gravity on Tar”, was actually called Gharisa Ali Qatran.

      Reply
  2. Kim Sharif

    Excellent compilation of relevant material for prosecution of war crimes and/or claim for compensation. THANK YOU

    kim

    Reply
  3. DG

    This is truly saddening. How are other countries of the world allowing Saudis, Israelis, Americans, and UK do this to a country? What the hell hole world do we love in?

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)