The UAE said 45 of its troops were killed in Yemen and Bahrain said it lost five soldiers yesterday, the deadliest day for a Saudi-led coalition battling Yemeni Shiite rebels. The Yemeni government said an “accidental explosion” at an arms depot at a military base in the eastern province of Marib killed the Emiratis, but the Houthi rebels said their fighters launched a rocket attack that caused the blast.
Coalition ally Bahrain said five of its soldiers were killed in southern Saudi Arabia where they had been posted to help defend the border with war-wracked Yemen, but it did not give a precise location. However, Yemen’s exiled presidency said the Bahrainis died in the same blast that killed the Emirati forces.
Twenty three soldiers wounded in the incident died of their injuries, raising the toll from an initial 22, the Emirati state news agency WAM reported. The UAE armed forces did not disclose the circumstances of what was its highest casualty toll of the six-month-old air war. But Anwar Gargash, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, said on Twitter yesterday that “a rocket and an explosion at a weapons cache targeted the martyrs”.
HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah yesterday sent a cable of condolences to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan on the martyrdom of the UAE soldiers. Sheikh Sabah also sent a cable of condolences to Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa on the martyrdom of the Bahraini soldiers. The Amir praised Allah the Almighty to bestow his blessings on the deceased. HH the Deputy Amir and Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah sent similar cables.
A thick plume of black smoke was still seen billowing from the base in Safer, 250 km from Sanaa, several hours later. The Houthis said their forces had killed “dozens of officers and soldiers of the mercenaries in the Saudi aggression” when they fired a Tochka ballistic missile at the Safer camp. An initial investigation found that the blast was triggered by a surface-to-surface missile fired by the rebels, a Yemeni military source said.