ABU DHABI: Four soldiers from the United Arab Emirates were killed when their helicopter crashed during a mission in Yemen, the UAE military confirmed on Saturday.
The Saudi-led coalition supporting the Yemeni government against Shia rebels had initially played down Friday evening’s incident, saying that the pilot had been forced to make an emergency landing “resulting in minor injuries to the crew”.
The four soldiers died when the helicopter crashed in the southern province of Shabwa following a technical problem, the UAE military said in statement carried by the country’s official WAM news agency. Earlier this month, UAE-trained Yemeni special forces backed by the United States launched a major operation against al Qaeda in Shabwa, driving it out of most of the province.
The militants are thought to have moved farther south into neighbouring Abyan province. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, seen by the US as the network’s most dangerous branch, has exploited years of conflict between the government and the rebels to expand its presence in Yemen, particularly in southern provinces.
The UAE is a key component of the Saudi-led coalition which intervened in Yemen in 2015, when President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled into exile as the rebels threatened to overrun his last stronghold. Scores of its soldiers have been killed.