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Senior officer killed in gunbattle on Yemen border

JEDDAH: A Saudi Border Guard commander and a sergeant were killed in a gunbattle Friday night along the kingdom’s border with Yemen, the Saudi Press Agency said on Saturday.
The report identified the martyred officer as Colonel Hassan Ghashoum Agili and the soldier as Deputy Sergeant Abdulrahman Mohammed Al-Hazazi.
Colonel Agili and his men were in a convoy of Border Guard patrol vehicles driving along the Al-Harth sector in Jazan province when his vehicle struck a land mine at about 6 p.m. Friday. The explosion damaged a number of vehicles, said the report, quoting the Interior Ministry’s spokesman.
Four other soldiers sustained minor injuries.
The report said that when reinforcements arrived, the convoy came under heavy fire from “hostile elements” inside Yemeni territory. A gunbattle ensued as the Saudi troops fought back “until they controlled the situation.”
Agili is one of the most senior Saudi officers killed since March when the kingdom formed an Arab coalition to fight Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen and in support of the internationally-backed government of Yemen President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
Coalition jets continue to conduct air strikes against the Houthis and forces loyal to ousted Yemen president Abdullah Saleh.
Hadi returned to the southern city of Aden on Tuesday, vowing to "liberate" the whole country.
In June, a Saudi lieutenant colonel died in a landmine blast in Jazan, while a general in August became the highest-ranked Saudi fatality when he was killed in cross-border fire.
Around 70 people have been killed in Saudi Arabia from border shelling and skirmishes since the coalition campaign began. Soldiers have accounted for most of the border casualties.
The United Nations says nearly 4,900 people, including a vast number of civilians, have been killed in Yemen since late March.

(Additional input from Agence France Presse)

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