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Yemen: 45 UAE, 5 Bahraini, 20 Saudi troops killed in Maarib

6th Sep 2015
Yemen: 45 UAE, 5 Bahraini, 20 Saudi troops killed in Maarib

By Ali Abo-Rezeg

DUBAI/SANAA (AA): The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has begun three days of national mourning after 45 of its soldiers were killed Friday evening in Yemen’s volatile Maarib province some 120 kilometers east of capital Sanaa. Other soldiers killed included 5 Bahraini and 20 Saudis.

The slain soldiers were part of a Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting Yemen’s Shia Houthi militant group, which overran Sanaa one year ago.

On Friday evening, the UAE’s Presidential Affairs Ministry issued a statement in which UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan mourned the loss of the soldiers, “killed today in Maarib”.

The statement went on to note that Sheikh Khalifa had declared “three days of national mourning to begin on Saturday”.

According to the country’s official news agency, the UAE air force responded to the soldiers’ deaths – which were reportedly caused by a Houthi missile attack on an arms depot – by carrying out several “devastating air strikes” against Houthi targets on Friday night.

“UAE warplanes struck Houthi strongholds in the [southern] Al-Bayda province, along with Houthi weapons depots in Mukayras [a town in Al-Bayda] and Maarib,” the news agency reported.

UAE aircraft, the agency went on to assert, had also targeted “a weapons factory in the northern Saada province, Republican Guard camps, and arms depots in the southwestern Ibb province and Sanaa, causing heavy losses to Houthis in these areas”.

Friday’s casualties bring the total number of UAE troops killed in Yemen to 52 since March, when Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched an air campaign aimed at halting Houthi military advances in Yemen and restoring the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Five Bahraini troops were also reportedly killed in Friday’s attack – the first Bahraini troop deaths to be recorded since the Saudi-led operation, of which Bahrain is a member, began almost six months ago.

Yemen descended into chaos last September, when Houthi militiamen overran capital Sanaa. In April, the Houthis also managed to capture Yemen’s southern Aden province, forcing President Hadi – along with most of his government – to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Recent weeks, however, have seen pro-Hadi forces – backed by Saudi-led air power – retake several strategic parts of the country, including Aden.

President Hadi himself, however, has yet to return to the war-torn country.

– Civilian deaths

On Saturday morning, several civilians were reportedly killed in Sanaa – which remains under Houthi control – after a building in a residential area of the city was hit by a Saudi-led coalition airstrike.

“A residential building located close to Sanaa’s Special Security Forces headquarters was struck, leading to numerous deaths and injuries among civilians,” a local security source, insisting on anonymity, told Anadolu agency without providing an exact death toll.

Saturday morning reportedly saw several airstrikes in and around Sanaa that targeted positions held by both the Houthis and allied forces loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

“[Saudi-led] coalition aircraft have struck the Jabal al-Nahdain camp close to the presidential palace south of Sanaa and a missile brigades camp to the east of the capital,” one local witness told Anadolu agency.

“Coalition warplanes also targeted a maintenance camp north of Sanaa,” the witness said, adding that the headquarters of the sixth military region – currently under Houthi control – had also been struck.

Since the Saudi-led air campaign began in March, well over 2,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed, according to UN figures.

[Photo: People walk on the rubble of a road after the war crafts belonging to the Saudi-led coalition carried out airstrikes on the Hada street in Sana’a, Yemen, killing many civilians on September 5, 2015. Photographer: Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency]

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