Yemen child prodigy badly injured in wedding bombing

Yemen child prodigy badly injured in wedding bombing
A Yemeni child prodigy 15-year old Abdullah Al Sanabani who won an international science prize may lose a leg and fingers because of injuries he sustained in an airstrike.
4 min read
01 November, 2015
At least 500 children have been killed Yemen since airstrikes began in March [Getty]
A Yemeni boy who took a trip to NASA after winning an international science award may lose his leg and fingers after an airstrike left him badly burned, Reuters reported on Friday.

Fifteen year old Abdullah al-Sanabani was injured in a suspected Saudi airstrike on 7 October that according to the Health Ministry killed 66 members of the wedding party in near Dhamar, a small city in southwestern Yemen, the UK newspaper The Independent reported.

In 2011, Abdullah won the prestigious Indian IKen Scientific science prize for building a solar-powered remote control car that converted into a boat, Reuters reported. His prize included a five-day trip to the US space agency NASA and the title of "Global Icon".

"He was so into life, into learning, English and computers. All of his dreams and aspirations could be lost now. His future is now in the hands of fate," his uncle Hussam told the news agency.

"Around 45 percent of his body has second and third degree burns. The five fingers on his right hand and his left leg are burnt, and the doctors are deciding whether to keep them or take them off," his father Qais said.

Abdullah himself is now recovering from his injuries in a Jordanian hospital. Asked if he would continue pursuing his dreams of being a scientist, he answered wearily "God willing."

"I wanted to do something that benefits human kind. So when I die, people remember me," he told the Independent by telephone from his bed in the burn unit ward in Amman' King Hussein hospital.

"Three of my wife's brothers were all having a wedding. At around 9:30 at night when the brides arrived to the house, we heard the sound of the Saudi airplanes attack it with missiles," his father told Reuters.

"We heard the terrifying sound of the jets," Abdullah told The Independent. "My uncle pushed me behind a water tank. Missiles fell on us and exploded, and when I looked around, I found all those who were around me dead. My uncle's body was torn into pieces. He hadn't got married yet."

Swathed in bandages and with first-degree burns on his face and body, he said "I am in pain all the time. My whole body has been scorched."

A national hero

His win, and his visit to NASA in 2011 made headlines in Yemen.

Wearing a T-shirt that said "NASA: I need my space" at a TEDx conference in Yemen in 2012, he told the audience: "I'm proud. Not just for myself, but for Yemen."

Many of Abdullah's family were killed in the attack, including a groom and a bride, two of Abdullah's grandparents, an aunt, two uncles and several young cousins. At least 15 children died in the attack.

Missiles fell on us and exploded, and when I looked around, I found all those who were around me dead
- Abdullah al-Sanabani

A Saudi military spokesman denied the explosion was caused by an airstrike, blaming the Ansar Allah group, better known as the Houthis. However, the Houthis are not known to have any military aircraft.

Less than two weeks before the attack on the wedding of Abdullah's family, another wedding was hit in the Red Sea city of Mokha, killing more than 130 guests. The guests again blamed airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition, but the coalition again denied any involvement.

In early October, Saudi Arabia blocked a planned UN-led inquiry into alleged human rights violations in Yemen. It was backed by Western countries including the UK, which has pocketed billions from arms sales to the oil-rich kingdom.


Six months of war between Shia Houthi forces allied to units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the supporters of current president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi backed by a regional Saudi-led alliance has devastated the country.

Over 5,400 people have been killed since Gulf Arab forces intervened in the Yemeni civil war in March, including at least 500 children, according to the UN. At least 23,000 have been wounded, and more than 1.4 million have been displaced.

Many Yemenis also now face the very real threat of starvation. Around 21 million out of a population of 26.7 million now require humanitarian aid.

In August, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator Johannes Van Der Klaauw said Yemen was experiencing "a humanitarian catastrophe".

Earlier this month, UNICEF Representative in Yemen Julien Harneis said: "With every day that passes, children see their hopes and dreams for the future shattered. Their homes, schools and communities are being destroyed, and their own lives are increasingly threatened by disease and malnutrition."