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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 January 2019

Houthi rebel drone targets senior officers at Yemen's Al Anad military base

Attack that killed three soldiers and wounded senior officers is clear evidence of Iran's hand, government says

A Houthi rebel drone strike killed at least three soldiers and injured high-ranking officers in Yemen's Lahj province on Thursday morning.

The drone targeted the stage from which the officers were reviewing a military parade at Al Anad air base. Military sources said there were at least three deaths and 20 injured, including officers.

Footage of the attack showed the drone flying above the stage before detonating. The Houthis claimed the strike on the rebels' Al Masirah TV station and said there were "dozens of dead and wounded". Houthi media reported that the drone was a Qasef-2K model that was designed to explode from a height of 20 metres and rain shrapnel down on its target.

The Yemeni undersecretary of the ministry of information Fayyad Al Noman said the attack was a "dangerous escalation" by the Houthis and showed Iran's hand in supporting the rebels.

“The drone is run by experts from Tehran because the Houthis do not have the capability to carry out a high-technology operation and run a wireless system,” Mr Noman told The National.

Information minister Moammer Al Eryani said the attack showed the Houthis were not committed to peace, despite agreeing to a ceasefire in the port city of Hodeidah.

"Once again this proves that the Houthi criminal militias are not ready for peace and that they are exploiting truces in order for deployment and reinforcements," he said.

"This is time for the international community to stand by the legitimate government and force the militias to give up their weapons and pull out of the cities."

Mr Al Eryani said two senior military officials were wounded in the attack, without naming them, but sources told The National that at least four senior figures were injured. They include Brigadier Saleh Al Zandani, the deputy chief of staff; Brig Fadel Hassan, commander of the army's 4th military zone; Maj Gen Mohammed Saleh Tammah, head of the army's intelligence department; and Maj Gen Mothana Thabet Gawas, commander of Al Anad military axis.

Lt Mohammed Al Naqeeb, spokesman for the 4th military zone was also injured and taken to hospital, according to his fellow officers.

Yemeni soldiers inspect the scene of a Houthi drone attack at a military parade at Al Anad air base, Lahj province, on January 10, 2019. Reuters
Yemeni soldiers inspect the scene of a Houthi drone attack at a military parade at Al Anad air base, Lahj province, on January 10, 2019. Reuters

The attack deals a blow to UN-led peace efforts in Yemen, particularly the ceasefire in Hodeidah on the Red Sea coast where repeated rebel violations have been reported since the truce went into effect on December 18.

Yemeni government officials have criticised the UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, for overlooking Houthi violations of a three-week-long ceasefire during his report to the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

Mr Griffiths told the council that the ceasefire was largely holding, despite reports of clashes. He claimed that warring parties have adhered to the agreement and there was a significant decrease in hostilities.

Mr Al Yamani took to Twitter earlier on Thursday to respond to the UN envoy’s remarks.

“One month has passed since the Hodeidah agreement was reached in Stockholm and Houthis continue to be intransigent and refuse to withdraw from the port and city,” he said.

“They are threatening the Sweden agreement and the next steps of the political process and are exposing the efforts of UN to envoy to failure.”

A government official told The National the rebels were “making a mockery” of the ceasefire agreement, which was brokered by the UN during talks in Sweden last month. He also said that Houthis are undermining efforts by the international community to secure a political solution to the conflict.

“The UN must take a tougher stance with the Houthis to establish clear mechanisms in order to implement the conditions of the Sweden deal, otherwise no progress will be made,” the official added.

Rana Ghanem, a member of the government’s delegation to Sweden, told The National that the UN envoy’s comments overlooked certain realities on the ground in Hodeidah.

“The UN envoy tried to be optimistic in his speech by portraying that things are progressing but he did not mention the violations and obstacles that the rebels have committed,” Ms Ghanem said.

The international body must be “firm with the Houthis,” she said.

A government report, seen by The National, says the rebels breached the ceasefire in Hodeidah 434 times since the agreement came into effect last month.

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Read more:

UN Yemen envoy hints peace talks could be delayed

UAE says UN must hold Houthis to peace commitments in Yemen

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Updated: January 11, 2019 10:35 AM

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