ADEN, Yemen-- The Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting Yemen's Houthi rebels announced that it has rescued 86 child soldiers, blasting the Shiite group for violating the international laws by recruiting children in the war-torn Arab country.

The anti-Houthi coalition released a statement earlier on Saturday saying that it "rescued 86 child soldiers recruited by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and returned them to their families."

The coalition's statement strongly condemned the Houthi rebels for continuing to exploit Yemen's children and putting them in harm.

The safety of Yemen's children is a priority for the coalition's forces, as well as ensuring that they were not recruited or affected by the war, according to the statement.

The coalition vowed also to continue its humanitarian efforts including financing the rehabilitation programs of Yemeni child soldiers recruited by Houthis.

Two days ago, warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition targeted passenger buses in the Dhahyan popular market in northern Yemen, killing at least 43 people, mostly pupils under 10, and injuring 64 others.

The aerial bombardment triggered popular anger across Yemen and drew mass condemnation from international humanitarian agencies.

The Arab coalition defended the attack and described it as a "legitimate military action," but acknowledged later on Friday and said that it would launch an investigation into the incident.

Allegations by media and relief organizations in Yemen were immediately forwarded to the Joint Incident Assessment Team for investigation, the coalition said on Friday.

An official of Yemen's government based in Aden said on condition of anonymity that "killing the children during Thursday's attack was a terrible carnage and Houthis were the only beneficiaries."

"The Houthis might be the ones who masterminded the attack by putting the children in danger just to gain international sympathy with extremist group," the government source said.

In June, Yemen's Human Rights Minister Mohamed Askar accused the Houthis of recruiting more than 15,000 child soldiers and sending them to the battlefronts without military experience or training since 2014.

The Saudi-backed Yemeni government frequently urges the United Nations to pressure the Houthis into stopping the recruitment of children particularly in the northern provinces.

The impoverished Arab country has been locked in a civil war since the Houthi rebels overran much of Yemen and seized all northern provinces in late 2014, including the capital Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia is leading the Arab military coalition that intervened in the Yemeni war to support the internationally-recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

More than 10,000 Yemenis, mostly civilians, have been killed in the war, with about 3 million others displaced.


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