Ground troops needed to purge ‘Iran influence’ in Yemen: Bahrain
PARIS // Bahrain’s foreign minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al Khalifa called for a ground offensive “to eliminate the Iranian influence” in Yemen, in an interview with France’s Le Figaro newspaper published on Thursday.
“We need to be present on the ground to obtain the application of UN Resolution 2216 and the return of the legitimate authority to power,” he said.
“We must be sure that we completely eliminate the Iranian influence and that of their Houthi allies.”
Bahrain is part of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that since March has been striking from the air at the Houthi rebels in a bid to prevent them from taking full control of Yemen and to restore the rule of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, who is exiled in Saudi Arabia.
On Friday, the coalition suffered its heaviest losses with the deaths of 45 Emirati troops, 10 Saudis and five Bahraini border guards in a Houthi missile strike.
A Saudi border guard was shot dead Thursday when his post came under fire from Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting rebels, the interior ministry said.
The post in the Jazan district “was subject to heavy fire from a mountainous area in Yemen,” said a ministry statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
The guard died before reaching hospital.
His comrades and troops returned fire. The guard’s death brings to at least 60 the number of people killed in shelling and skirmishes along the border with Yemen since the coalition campaign began.
Most of the border casualties have been soldiers.
Sheikh Khaled said it was necessary to send in ground troops because “we cannot continue to come under attack from missiles”.
He also conceded that the coalition’s air strikes were causing “collateral victims”, so a new approach was needed in a conflict that has cost the lives of more than 4,500 people.
Gulf Arab members of the coalition have reportedly sent thousands of heavily armed reinforcements to Yemen after Friday’s missile strike.
A Qatari official on Tuesday said Doha had dispatched 1,000 troops “ready to fight”, saying at the time that they were on the border with Saudi Arabia.
Roughly 1,000 Saudi soldiers have already arrived in Marib province east of the Yemeni capital Sanaa, according to military sources in the war-torn country.
Meanwhile, four suspected Al Qaeda members were killed in an apparent United States drone strike on the militants’ stronghold in southeastern Yemen, a local official said on Thursday.
The raid late on Wednesday targeted a 4x4 transporting the four suspects near Mukalla, capital of Hadramawt province, with a missile leaving the vehicle charred, the official said.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), viewed by Washington as the most dangerous affiliate of the extremist network, has controlled Mukalla since its militants overran the coastal city in April.
The US, the only country known to operate armed drones over Yemen, has carried on with strikes on militants during months of fighting between pro-government forces and Shiite Huthi rebels.
AQAP said in June that its leader in Yemen, Nasir Al Wuhayshi, had been killed in a drone strike.
* Agence France-Presse
Updated: September 10, 2015 04:00 AM