James Rosen / McClatchy & Reuters – 2015-04-08 15:42:20
US Stepping Up Weapons Shipments
To Aid Saudi Air Campaign over Yemen
James Rosen / McClatchy
WASHINGTON — The United States appears to be slowly but steadily deepening its involvement in the war in Yemen.
US military officials said Tuesday that the United States has stepped up weapons shipments to the Saudi-led Sunni Muslim coalition of Arab countries that has been bombing Shiite Muslim Houthi rebels in Yemen for almost two weeks.
“It’s a combination of pre-existing orders to our partners and some new requirements,” said Army Col. Steve Warren, describing the arms shipments.
Warren told McClatchy that the weapons are mainly ammunition and bombs, likely including precision-guided weapons to compensate for the absence of Saudi or allied foot soldiers in Yemen to provide targeting information.
Additionally, the number of US military personnel assigned to what US officials have called a “joint fusion center” in Saudi Arabia to oversee the air campaign has risen to about a dozen, Warren said.
An official who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to disclose details said the American contingent is being led by Marine Maj. Gen. Sam Bundy, the deputy commander of Marine Corps troops at US Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla. It is unusual for the Pentagon to choose a two-star general to lead a mission in which US troops, warplanes or Navy ships are not directly involved.
On Monday, Warren told reporters that the US had agreed to provide refueling services for the coalition’s aircraft, though it had not yet been called on to do so and would not do so over Yemeni territory.
He also said that US military assets had been used to rescue two Saudi pilots March 26 from the Gulf of Aden after the engine of their F-15 fighter failed. Warren said an Air Force Pave Hawk special operations helicopter had been dispatched from Djibouti, on the eastern shore of the gulf, to carry out the rescue, which was coordinated by the guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett.
Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes against Iran-backed Houthi rebels on March 26 after the rebels began an assault on Aden, Yemen’s second largest city. The Houthis, followers of a religious sect of Shiite Islam, had taken control of the country’s capital, Sanaa, last fall and arrested the country’s president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, whose escape in February and flight to Aden triggered the Houthi advance.
The United States pulled its remaining military personnel from Yemen on March 21. Hadi, a close ally of the United States, fled Aden on the same day Saudi Arabia began bombing and surfaced in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, the next day.
Almost 200 people have died in Aden, Yemen’s commercial hub, in ground fighting and airstrikes, and an estimated 500 people are believed to have died throughout the country.
Warren said the recent focus on Yemen has not weakened the separate US-led air campaign against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria. Some of the same Arab countries now helping Saudi Arabia in Yemen also are providing aircraft to the US-led anti-Islamic State effort.
“Gulf Cooperation Council participation in operations over Yemen have not had an impact on US-led coalition efforts in Iraq and Syria,” Warren said.
In Riyadh on Tuesday, Tony Blinken, the US deputy secretary of state, reiterated American support for Saudi Arabia’s campaign and acknowledged the US weapons deliveries. He also said the United States was increasing its intelligence sharing with the coalition, which in addition to Saudi Arabia includes the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt.
“Saudi Arabia is sending a strong message to the Houthis and their allies that they cannot overrun Yemen by force,” Blinken told reporters.
At the White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the US would continue its support for Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign, which, he said, “is dedicated to addressing legitimate security concerns that they have along their border with Yemen.”
Lesley Clark in Washington and McClatchy special correspondent Tom Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this report.
Warplanes Hit Houthi Base in Central Yemen,
Students Reported Killed
SANAA (April 7, 2015) — Warplanes from a Saudi-led air coalition on Tuesday bombed a military base in central Yemen controlled by Houthi fighters and their army allies, and a website of the Houthi-run defence ministry said two students were killed at a neighbouring school.
Military sources said five bombs were dropped on the Republican Guard base near the city of Ibb, 160 km (100 miles) south of the capital Sanaa, apparently targeting air defence units and soldiers’ quarters.
They said the commander of the base was wounded. The September26 website said two students were killed, while the Houthis’ Maseerah television reported three student deaths.
Overnight air raids also hit Houthi-held weapons stores near Sanaa and further north in Sanhan, birthplace of the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has allied himself and his army loyalists with the Shi’ite Muslim Houthi fighters.
Other raids targeted military positions on the Red Sea coast near the port of Hodaida and Yemen’s northern provinces of Saadah and Hajja along the border with Saudi Arabia, and a ground forces base at Makairas, 150 km (90 miles) northeast of Aden, the sources said.
Regional Sunni Muslim power Saudi Arabia, alarmed by the growing strength of the Iran-allied Houthis on its southern doorstep, launched air strikes in a coalition made up mainly of four Gulf Arab allies against the Houthis nearly two weeks ago.
The Houthi fighters and the pro-Saleh army units took over Sanaa in September and last month launched an advance on the southern city of Aden, stronghold of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. He has now fled the country and is based in Saudi Arabia.
Aden residents said Houthi forces and their allies have reached the perimeter of the city’s main port, but reported relative calm in the city on Tuesday.
Heavy air strikes in southern provinces around Aden on Monday appeared to push back the Houthis from al-Anad military base, north of the port city, and also hit a government complex and military base on the edge of the southern town of Dhalea where the Houthis were based.
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