A Raytheon Mark 82 general-purpose free-fall bomb was likely used by the Saudi-led coalition to strike a bus full of children in Yemen on Thursday, a local journalist claims, after bomb fragments from the scene were recovered.
The Saudi-led coalition struck a school bus in the Dahyan area of the Houthi-controlled Saada province last Thursday, leaving 51 dead, most of them children, and injuring at least 79 others. Just as the dust was settling at the scene of the strike with charred bodies being recovered, locals found fragments of the bomb used in the strike.
Harrowing images from the site, shared by journalist Nasser Arrabyee, show fragments that appear to be from the 500-pound MK-82 bomb, which the US continues to sell to Saudi Arabia.
While the photo of the fragments has yet to be independently verified, pieces of MK 82 bombs have surfaced repeatedly amid the ongoing Yemen bombing campaign. The MK-82 made shocking headlines in 2016 when the Saudi-led coalition bombed a community hall in Sanaa during a funeral for Sheikh Ali al-Rawishan, killing more than 140 people and wounding 525 others.
Arms sales to Saudi Arabia have repeatedly been condemned by human rights organizations, who view them as one of the main contributing factors to the skyrocketing death toll in the war-torn country. More than 10,000 people have been killed in three years of war, according to United Nations estimates, while the Saudi Arabian blockade continues to contribute to starvation and disease in the country.
Despite repeated calls by NGOs and even US lawmakers to halt arms supplies to the Saudis amid the ongoing conflict, in 2016 and 2017, the Pentagon went on to award Lockheed Martin/General Dynamics key contracts to supply the MK- 500-pound bombs to the Arab coalition.
Yet, despite the apparent arms sale trail between Washington and Rhiyad, the Pentagon advised earlier this week that it might be impossible to tell where the bomb that annihilated the school bus came from. In 2016 the US approved MK-82 sales to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, France and Iraq, while extending the deal to Australia and Bahrain the following year.
“We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the US sold to them,” Army Maj. Josh Jacques, a spokesperson for US Central Command, told Vox. “We don’t have a lot of people on the ground.”