Probe finds no evidence Arab Military Coalition behind 2018 attack on Yemeni fishing boat

The Royal Saudi Naval Forces patrol boat Oqbah (Photo: US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Starkey)

The Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) of the Saudi-led Arab Military Coalition has said that it found no evidence that coalition warships had opened fire on a Yemeni fishing vessel and killed 11 of its crew in August 2018, refuting an article published in the New York Times four months after the supposed attack.

In a recent press briefing in Riyadh, JIAT spokesman Mansour al-Mansour said the New York Times article reported that an Arab coalition naval vessel conducting a patrol in the southern Red Sea had attacked the civilian trawler Afaq, killing all but three of the vessel’s crew and setting its engine on fire.

Mr al-Mansour pointed out that the New York Times article gave the date of the reported attack on Afaq as August 14 whereas a reporter from the same publication who had earlier contacted the JIAT to enquire about the incident said that it occurred instead on August 11. Further, crew logs and other official records of coalition naval operations revealed that the only three coalition vessels that were in or near the area on the given dates had not engaged any surface targets.

The article also claimed that a helicopter was sighted by the fishing boat’s crew hovering nearby just prior to the attack. The JIAT investigation showed that, although a coalition helicopter had indeed been operating in the area between the given dates, it was only to evacuate a coalition sailor to a shore hospital due to a medical emergency.

The JIAT concluded that it would have been therefore impossible for coalition forces to have fired on and sunk the Yemeni fishing boat as no surface targets of any kind were attacked on either date.

Mr al-Mansour then went on to assure those present at the briefing that the JIAT thoroughly investigates alleged violations of international humanitarian law committed by coalition forces and that it will hold the responsible individuals accountable in the event that allegations are proven to be true.

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