Yemen: Missile used by Saudi-led coalition on school bus identified as manufactured by Lockheed Martin

A piece of metal marked with identification numbers lies on sandy ground
A fragment of a GBU-12 missile allegedly used in the strike
Andrew Metheven

Journalists in Yemen and the USA have collected evidence that the missile used by the Saudi-led coalition forces to bomb a civilian bus Yemen, killing dozens of children and injuring many more, was as a 500-pound GBU-12 MK 82 laser guided missile, built by Lockheed Martin. Saudi Arabia is the single biggest customer for both the US and the UK, with billions of weapons sold each year, and are also supported with intelligence and refuelling. However, more than 50 civilian vehicles have been targetted with airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition this year, who are trying to rout Houthi rebels in support of the Yemeni government.

On the morning of 9th August 2018, a group of school children – some as young as six – were travelling through a busy market place in Dahyan on a school trip, when the bomb hit the bus they were travelling in, killing 40 boys and eleven adults, and injuring 79 others.

The investigative journalism website Bellingcat identified the bomb from fragments, including a piece of a front control fin. Bellingcat were able to use identification numbers and a US government database to identify the missile. The USA Defence Security Cooperation Agency approved the sale of over 4,000 GBU-12 missiles to Saudi Arabia in 2015, during the Obama presidency. On their website, Bellingcat acknowledged the images they used to identify the bomb weren’t taken in situ, so couldn’t be considered conclusive proof that the missile used was in fact a GBU-12. CNN said they had worked with their own munitions experts to identify the missile, and have identified the manufacturers of the weapons used in other air strikes that led to civilian deaths.

The Obama administration sold over $115 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, but after the bombing of a funeral hall in October 2016 that killed more than 150 people – using a missile very similar to that dropped on the school bus - the Obama administration ended the sale of guided missiles to Saudi Arabia. In March 2017, Rex Tillerson reversed that decision. In response to a Vox journalist, Army Maj. Josh Jacques, a spokesperson for US Central Command said “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the US sold to them… we don’t have a lot of people on the ground.”

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