Security officials and local journalists in Yemen have refuted a report that an eight-year-old bride died of internal injuries and bleeding on her wedding night, Dubai-based Gulf News reported.
But the journalist who broke the story, that caused outcry across the country, maintained that the story is true and is based on facts provided by the girl's neighbours.
Earlier this week, there were reports stating that an eight-year-old was forced into marriage to a 40-year-old man in Hajjah province in northwestern Yemen. The girl died of bleeding after sleeping with her husband on the wedding night.
The news of the girl's death went viral after Al Watan, a Kuwaiti news website, reported that the girl died of "deep wounds and uterine rupture suffered during the "wedding night" after her marriage." The story caused outrage in the region and many came forward to condemn child marriages.
However, security officials in Yemen have denied the report saying that the girl is alive.
"When I heard the rumors [of the girl's death], I called the girl's father," the director of Criminal Investigation, Mosleh Al Azzani, told Gulf News by telephone on Monday. "He came with his daughter and denied the marriage and death of his daughter. I have the photos of the girl and will show it to anyone."
But Mohammad Radman, a freelance journalist who wrote the story, said he was told by the girl's neighbours that she was indeed dead and officials are trying to do away with his story.
"They are willing to give their testimony on this issue. I think the officials are trying to bury the story." Radman said.
Azzani also said that he did not receive any information about the girl's death from the local hospital.
"The man moved to Haradh 20 days ago. He is a father of two daughters and a son. I am ready to call them again if any journalist wants to investigate this issue," he added.
Aziz Saleh, who runs a local news website in the region, cited officials as saying that neither the marriage took place nor the girl's death.
Gulf News also quoted a children's rights activist in Yemen's Capital who said that government officials denied the reports.
"I got in touch with the director of Criminal Investigation, Hajja's prosecutor and the province's security chief who all flatly denied the story. Some people create these stories to get publicity and attention and aid from international organizations," activist Ahmad Al Qurishi of the SEYAJ Organization for Childhood Protection, an independent NGO, told Gulf News.