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A bombing campaign led by Saudi Arabia has targeted a Yemeni military base where an American father of three was believed to have been imprisoned, campaigners said.
British human-rights group Reprieve said they were urgently trying to find out whether 31-year-old New Jersey native Sharif Mobley was still alive after the airstrike reportedly killed dozens of people at the compound.
Mobley was detained under unspecified terror allegations in 2010 after Yemeni officials claimed that he made contact with U.S.-born militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a charge he denies.
"At the moment we are still trying to find out whether Sharif is alive or dead," Reprieve spokeswoman Clemency Wells told NBC News on Thursday.
The base was hit during the deadliest day of the two-month Saudi-led bombing campaign against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. According to Reuters, citing a Houthi-run news agency and witnesses, 40 people died in the airstrike on the base in central Sanaa.
Mobley has spoken to Reprieve several times via telephone over the past 18 months, according to Wells. In a call at the end of March, he said the area was being "bombed every night." He added: "I don't know that I'm going to make it out of here alive."
Reprieve has previously urged the State Department to pass on information to the Saudis that Mobley is held in the military compound.
"We have repeatedly warned the U.S. that the life of an American is in grave danger," Cori Crider, Sharif’s lawyer at Reprieve, said in a statement Wednesday. She also implored the U.S. government to "urgently confirm whether Sharif is still alive, and explain what steps it is taking to protect its citizen."
Mobley has never been charged nor been given a trial, and has denied, through his lawyers, ever being in touch with al-Awlaki. He is in prison on terrorism allegations that are not specified by the Yemenis and has been accused of killing a prison guard.
The State Department was not immediately available for comment early Thursday. But when contacted in March about Mobley's situation, an official told NBC News: "The safety and welfare of U.S. citizens overseas is among our top priorities."
It said that while "consular officers strive to assist U.S. citizens detained abroad whenever possible," due to the deteriorating crisis in the country it closed its embassy in Yemen on February 11.
Reuters contributed to this report.