By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
October 15, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – An Eritrean opposition group on Friday alleged that scores of Ethnic Afar Eritrean civilians in small vessels have been Killed by Saudi-led coalition off the Coast of Yemen.
Citing to several reliable sources the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO) affirmed to Sudan Tribune that the Saudi -led coalition planes have “indiscriminately” and “deliberately” hit Eritrean Afar small fishers’ boats near the Mokha port of Bab Al-Mandab strait off Yemen.
According to opposition officials the fishing boats were carrying livestock and civilians.
The boats had left for Yemen from the Dankalia Region of Eritrea to import basic food commodities, household items, clothing and footwear to meet their basic needs.
“At least 5 civilians were indiscriminately killed and 10 other people injured, including women, children and elderly people,” said Ibrahim Haron, leader of RSADO, an armed opposition movement based in Ethiopia.
This type of air attack against a civilian boat the opposition leader said is "a serious violation of international humanitarian law".
RSADO deplored the attacks by the coalition forces saying it was indiscriminate air strikes with foreknowledge of their indiscriminate effect.
“RSADO unequivocally condemns in the strongest terms possible this indiscriminate air strike attack directed at the Eritrean Afar civilian population by the Arab Coalition Forces” said the rebel group.
Sudan Tribune could not independently confirm this account and a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition forces could not immediately be reached for comment.
In October 2015, Yemeni fishermen accused the coalition helicopters and warships of killing 40 people, including several fishermen during an attack on military locations belonging to the Houthis and forces loyal to Saleh on Aqban and Kadman islands on 24 October 2015.
Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading an military coalition to restore Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his government, forced into exile by an advance of Houthi fighters allied to Iran.
Reports last month revealed that Saudi Arabia has transferred some 5,000 Yemeni militants to Eritrea for military training in the Red Sea country.
According to the report, Riyadh was transferring the militants from Aden to Eritrea’s Assab port to go under military trainings and then be sent to the Saudi provinces bordering Yemen.
The Eritrean government at the time dismissed the report saying “a preposterous lie”.
“The allegation by Farsi News Agency represents a preposterous lie peddled for some ulterior motives,” said a statement then issued by Asmara.
However, RSADO Friday confirmed that the Arab Coalitions Forces were stationed in Eritrea’s Dankalia region since November 2, 2015.
Since their deployment, RSADO said thousands of Afar families have been made homeless, forcibly evicted from their traditional land and homes.
“Internally displaced, children and families are deliberately kept in destitute or unhealthy conditions by the regime” Ibrahim said.
He added that “They [Afars] were forced from their homes and off their grazing lands and fishing areas violently, without compensation and without Free, Prior and Informed consent (FPIC) in order to make Afar land available for the Saudi Arabia-led Alliance”
According to the opposition official, on November 2, 2015 the State of Eritrea leased the Port of Assab to the UAE for 30 years and it has allowed the Saudi Arabia-led Gulf Alliance to use the Hanish islands to conduct military operations against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Allies have established their military presence in Afar Land in Eritrea in return for financial aid and fuel supplies for the Eritrean government, the group calimed.
Eritrean right groups say, the military base of the Saudi -led alliance in Dankalia (Afar Land) has already had a devastating impact on the indigenous Afar because their economic, social and cultural survival is deeply linked to their traditional land, fishing, and commercial and business activities between Eritrea and Yemen.
RSADO alleges the Eritrean regime is responsible for committing crimes and human rights violations against Afar people.
The group accused Isaias Afewerki regime in Asmara of deliberately leasing Afar lands to the Saudi coalition forces in order to systematically remove the Afars from their traditional lands in the name of development.
“We may otherwise suppose that the Eritrean regime hopes that the solution to the ’Afar Problem’ is to allow Saudi-led coalition forces and Houthi rebels-Salih Forces to collaterally eradicate the Afar people in the crossfire”.
“We think that equating or nullifying this incident with fighting international terrorism which were targeting the International Maritime Routes in the Bab-el-Mandeb route is an additional insult to injury,” the group said.
RSADO urged the Saudi-led coalition forces to immediately withdraw from their traditional territory (Dankalia) and to allow the Afar people live in their land peacefully.
It also called upon the international community, U.S., EU, UK, Russa, and human rights groups to urge and pressure the Saudi–led coalition to abide and comply with international humanitarian and human rights laws, and to immediately halt targeting innocent Eritrean Afar fishermen and civilians in Eritrean and international waters near the Bab al-Mandab strait off Yemen.