‘Yemen’s Houthi militia using Iranian-made drone aircraft’: Arab coalition

Arab coalition spokesperson Col. Turki Al-Maliki holds a press conference at the King Salman airbase in Riyadh. (SPA)
Updated 21 January 2019

‘Yemen’s Houthi militia using Iranian-made drone aircraft’: Arab coalition

  • Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the Houthis have used the aircraft to carry out a number of attacks
  • Al-Maliki said a coalition military operation that was conducted in Sanaa on Saturday night

JEDDAH: The Arab coalition on Sunday said the Houthi militia are in possession of Iranian-made drones “Shahed 129” and are using residential areas to hide the aircraft.
On Saturday night, the Arab coalition destroyed seven Houthi drone facilities in Sanaa in an airstrike.
Addressing a press conference in Riyadh on Sunday, coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the attack followed an extensive intelligence-gathering operation that monitored movements of the Houthi militia and helped identify the Iranian-backed group’s operational and logistical infrastructure.
Targets included drone storage areas, manufacturing and repair workshops, and launch platforms, as well as training facilities for terrorist operations, he said.
He added: “We attacked a helicopter platform belonging to the Houthi militia in an area between Sanaa and Saada.”
Al-Maliki confirmed that Iran had provided the Houthi militia with “Ababil-T drones.”
Al-Maliki said the military strike was carried out in accordance with international humanitarian law. The coalition’s Joint Forces Command took all necessary precautions to protect civilians and avoid collateral damage, he added.
Al-Maliki reaffirmed the commitment of the coalition’s Joint Forces Command to international humanitarian law in all military operations, and said the coalition would continue to deny Houthi militia and terrorist groups access to capabilities that threaten regional and international security.
He said the Houthis have used drones to carry out a number of attacks and are using Sanaa airport for military purposes.
 He also showed videos and pictures of Saturday’s operations against the militia group in Sanaa, models of aircraft used by the Houthis in their attacks and the bombing of a cave used by the Iran-backed terrorist group as a command center in Sanaa.

20 Houthis killed
More than 20 Houthis were killed in military operations carried out by the Yemeni army backed by the coalition’s air support in Taiz.
A Yemeni military source said the Arab coalition conducted airstrikes killing five Houthis, injuring others. A vehicle laden with ammunition was also destroyed in the joint operation.
“Nine more militants were killed by the Yemeni army’s artillery shelling, which targeted a meeting held by the militia at a farm, the source added. He confirmed that Houthi commanders were among those killed.
“The Yemeni army also targeted reinforcements of the militia near Al-Rawd School killing and injuring a number of insurgents.”
“Multiple infiltration attempts were thwarted by the Yemeni armed forces west of the city, while two Houthis were killed in a failed infiltration attempt targeting Al-Tashrifat military camp in eastern Taiz,” the source said.
The airstrikes late Saturday were the first by the coalition in Sanaa since a deal reached last month between coalition-backed government and the Houthis, which have been at war since 2014.
The deal provided for a cease-fire and a withdrawal of rival forces from the contested port city of Hodeidah on the Red Sea as well as an exchange of prisoners, but the implementation has run into difficulties.
Earlier this month, a bomb-laden drone launched by the Houthis targeted a military parade near the government-held city of Aden on the Arabian Sea, killing at least seven people, including the commander of military intelligence.

Thousands protest in Iraq to demand ouster of US troops

Updated 24 January 2020

Thousands protest in Iraq to demand ouster of US troops

  • A representative of Sadr took to the stage at the protest site and read out a statement by the influential Shiite cleric and populist politician
  • In the early hours of Friday, thousands of men, women and children of all ages massed under grey skies in the Jadiriyah district of east Baghdad

BAGHDAD: Thousands of supporters of populist Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr gathered in Baghdad on Friday for a rally to demand the ouster of US troops, putting the protest-hit capital on edge.

The march rattled the separate, months-old protest movement that has gripped the capital and the Shiite-majority south since October, demanding a government overhaul, early elections and more accountability.

In the early hours of Friday, thousands of men, women and children of all ages massed under grey skies in the Jadiriyah district of east Baghdad.

“Get out, get out, occupier!” some shouted, while others chanted, “Yes to sovereignty!“

A representative of Sadr took to the stage at the protest site and read out a statement by the influential Shiite cleric and populist politician.

It called for all foreign forces to leave Iraq, the cancelation of Iraq’s security agreements with the US, the closure of Iraqi airspace to American military and surveillance aircraft and for US President Donald Trump not to be “arrogant” when addressing Iraqi officials.

“If all this is implemented, we will deal with it as a non-occupying country — otherwise it will be considered a country hostile to Iraq,” the statement said.

Protesters then began peeling away from the square, tossing their signs in bins along the way, but thousands lingered in the rally camp.

The American military presence has been a hot-button issue in Iraq since a US drone strike killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary leader Abu
Mahdi Al-Muhandis outside Baghdad airport on January 3.

Two days later, parliament voted for all foreign troops, including some 5,200 US personnel, to leave the country.

The vote was non-binding and the US special envoy for the coalition against the Daesh group, James Jeffrey, said Thursday there was no “real engagement” between the two governments on the issue.

Joint US-Iraqi operations against IS have been on hold since the drone attack, which triggered retaliatory Iranian missile strikes against US troops in Iraq.

No Iraqi or US personnel were killed in Iran’s strike.

Long opposed to the US troop presence, Sadr seized on the public anger over the drone strike to call “a million-strong, peaceful, unified demonstration to condemn the American presence and its violations.”

Several pro-Iran factions from the Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary force, usually rivals of Sadr, backed his call and pledged to join.

But separate anti-government protesters, who have braved violence that has left 470 people dead since October, fear their cause could be eclipsed by Sadr’s powerplay.

“Sadr doesn’t represent us,” one teenager said defiantly late Thursday on a blocked-off thoroughfare in Baghdad.

To head off Friday’s gathering and ramp up pressure on authorities to enact reforms, young demonstrators blocked streets in Baghdad and across the south this week.

There had been worries that angry crowds might attack the presidential palace or the high-security Green Zone, home to the US embassy and other foreign missions.

The move would not be without precedent for Sadr, who urged followers to storm the Green Zone in 2016 in a challenge to the government over undelivered reforms.

But there were no attempts on Friday morning to storm government buildings.

Sadr, 46, battled US forces at the head of his Mehdi Army militia after the US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

He later branded himself a reformist and backed the recent anti-government protests when they erupted in October.

The cleric controls parliament’s largest bloc and his followers hold top ministerial positions.

Sadr is a notoriously fickle politician, known for switching alliances quickly.

His spokesman Saleh Al-Obeidy hinted that while others in Iraq unequivocally blamed either the US or Iran for instability, Sadr would choose a middle path.

“We believe that both are behind this ruin, and Sadr is trying to balance between the two,” he said.

Harith Hasan of the Carnegie Middle East Center said Sadr was trying to sustain his “multiple identities” by backing various protests.

“On the one hand, (he seeks to) position himself as the leader of a reform movement, as a populist, as anti-establishment,” Hasan told AFP.

“On the other hand, he also wants to sustain his image as the leader of the resistance to the ‘American occupation’,” partly to win favor with Iran.
Sadr may also have domestic motivations, Hasan said.

“This protest will show Sadr is still the one able to mobilize large groups of people in the streets — but it’s also possible he wants other groups to respond by giving him more space to choose the prime minister.”