A Saudi-led coalition today blamed "wrong information" for the bombing last weekend of a packed funeral hall in the Yemeni capital Sanaa that killed at least 140 people and wounded some 600.
The coalition's Joint Incidents Assessment Team, or JIAT, said a "party" affiliated to Yemen's General Chief of Staff headquarters had passed intelligence that the hall was filled with leaders of Shiite Houthi rebels, whom the coalition has been targeting since March 2015 when it intervened in Yemen's civil war in support of the internationally recognised government.
The unidentified party insisted the site was "a legitimate military target," the English-language statement said. The Air Operation Center in Yemen, it added, directed a "close air support mission" to target the site without approval from the coalition's command.
The investigation team called on the coalition to immediately review the rules of engagement and recommended that compensation be offered to the victims' families.
"JIAT has found that because of non-compliance with Coalition rules of engagement and procedures, and the issuing of incorrect information, a Coalition aircraft wrongly targeted the location, resulting in civilian deaths and injuries," it said.
This is the first time the coalition has acknowledged it was behind the bombing, after an initial denial. The Yemeni government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has yet to publicly comment on the October 8 bombing.
Yemen's chief of staff is Major General Mohammed Ali al-Maqdishi, a close ally of the powerful army general Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, now serving as vice president.
Al-Ahmar is also a top ally of Yemen's Muslim Brotherhood, whose followers are fighting the Houthis alongside government troops.
The US-backed coalition, which accuses Houthis of being Iranian proxies, has come under heavy international pressure to investigate the bombing. Human Rights Watch said in a report Thursday that the bombing constitutes an apparent war crime and said remnants of a US-made bomb were found at the site of the strike.
Along with arms, the United States provides the coalition with logistical support and mid-air refuelling of its warplanes.
The White House has said it will immediately review its assistance to the Saudi-led coalition, explaining that such assistance was not a "blank check.