Saudi Arabi intercepts Scud missile from Yemen Houthis
SANAA // Saudi Arabia’s military intercepted a Scud missile fired towards its south by Yemeni army units allied to the Houthi militia on Wednesday, retaliating with air strikes on Yemen territory.
Residents in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa reported hearing a big roar as the ballistic missile was launched from near the city, followed by Saudi-led air strikes on a presidential palace and a military depot for rockets.
Brigadier General Sharaf Luqman, a spokesman for the Yemeni forces fighting alongside the Houthis, said the missile was aimed at an electricity station in Saudi Arabia’s Jizan province.
The Saudi military said it intercepted the missile, averting any damage, and directed air attacks against the source of fire in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia led an Arab military intervention against the Houthis beginning on March 26 to restore the Yemeni government ousted by the rebels and fend off what it sees as the creeping influence of its main ally, Iran.
The Houthis say their rise to power is a revolution against corrupt officials beholden to Saudi Arabia and the West.
Two Saudi soldiers and a brigadier general were killed this week in border fighting along the kingdom’s long frontier with northern Yemen, a heartland of the Houthis.
Houthi-controlled news agency Saba reported that Saudi-led war planes launched over 100 air strikes against the group’s main base of support in Saada province on Tuesday alone.
Meanwhile, Al Qaeda militants on Wednesday blew up a Yemeni army headquarters and set up checkpoints in the extremist group’s southeastern stronghold of Mukalla, officials in Hadramawt province said.
The militants had deployed forces across Mukalla after receiving information of a possible operation by a Saudi-led military coalition to help government loyalists retake the provincial capital, the officials said.
The coalition of Arab states has been carrying out air strikes against the Houthis in Yemen since March, but has so far not intervened against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Wednesday’s explosion flattened the three-storey army building – the command centre for a zone covering Hadramawt and parts of neighbouring Shabwa province.
It came a day after Al Qaeda dynamited a headquarters of the secret police in Mukalla, officials said.
In Aden a 100-strong Saudi force arrived late on Tuesday and was deployed at the main southern city’s international airport, military sources said.
“This force’s mission is to help secure the city, where Al Qaeda militants surfaced last weekend,” one of the sources said, referring to Aden.
Backed by arms and troops from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, government loyalists recaptured Aden from Houthi rebels and their allies in mid-July before retaking four other southern provinces.
AQAP, considered among the network’s deadliest affiliates, has taken advantage of the chaos since the Houthis expanded across Yemen since last year, to seize territory including Mukalla.
* Reuters and Agence France-Presse
Updated: August 26, 2015 04:00 AM