Abu Dhabi: UAE forces did not target a boat carrying Somali refugees from Yemen to Sudan, according to an unnamed government source.

The forces recognised the boat was carrying a large number of civilians, the UAE state news agency WAM reported, adding that the UAE remained committed to the rules of engagement that prohibit it from engaging with any non-military target.

UAE authorities are continuing investigations into the “painful humanitarian disaster” but have not ruled out that the boat was targeted by Iran-backed Al Houthi rebels, the source said.

The UAE also welcomes an independent international investigation into the incident.

On Saturday, the Somali government condemned the helicopter attack on the boat carrying Somali refugees and called on the Saudi-led coalition fighting in the country to investigate, officials said on Saturday.

At least 40 Somali refugees were killed when a helicopter attacked the boat they were travelling in late on Thursday, the United Nations refugee agency said.

It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack.

“The prime minister condemns the unfair killing of the Somalis who were sailing on the shores of Yemen ... the victims were innocent, unarmed and were mostly women and children,” Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire’s office said in a statement.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting Al Houthi rebels in Yemen said it did not conduct any operations or have any engagement on Thursday in the Hodeidah area where the attack took place.