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.
An image of a traditional banner made to celebrate the wedding of the three brothers was posted by some news outlets.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- White car
- Black SUV
- White saloon with yellow stripe
- Dark damaged car
- Silver car – front left door damaged
- White pick-up truck
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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.