At least 6 killed by Yemeni rebel drone bomb
A drone that exploded over a military parade in Yemen has killed at least six people, put the country’s ceasefire in jeopardy and raised fears about the threat posed by low-tech airborne guerilla warfare.
Senior officials from the progovernment side in Yemen’s crippling civil war were attending the parade when the drone flew overhead on Thursday (yesterday AEST).
Captured on video, participants on a raised, covered dais could be seen turning their attention away from the speaker as the device whirred overhead. It then exploded with a flash, showering shrapnel on their heads.
Among those injured were some of the pro-government forces’ top brass, including the deputy chief of staff and head of intelligence. Ahmed al-Turki, the governor of Lahj, the southern province near Aden where the attack took place, also was hurt. The six dead are all believed to be soldiers.
Drones of this sort — very different from the hi-tech varieties used by the US — have become a vital component in asymmetric warfare tactics by guerilla groups across the Middle East. Islamic State frequently used drones to drop grenades behind attacking forces’ lines in Iraq and Syria.
Houthi rebels who are fighting the Saudi-backed government in Yemen and continue to occupy the capital, Sanaa, claimed to be behind yesterday’s attack.
They said the drone carried more than 150lb (68kg) of explosive. They claimed that Abdullah Al-Nakhee, the government’s chief of staff, was wounded.
The attack was not technically a breach of the ceasefire announced last month in the civil war, which has killed tens of thousands of people since the Houthis seized Sanaa in September 2014.
UN negotiators ensured an end to fighting in the two hottest battlefronts: Hodeidah, the main access port for food and aid supplies, and Taiz, Yemen’s third city. Separately, the Houthis also had promised to end missile attacks on Saudi Arabia but said that the drone attack was retaliation for airstrikes.
However, the ceasefire was already under strain, with the government accusing Houthi forces of refusing to withdraw from Hodeidah as promised.
Martin Griffiths, the UN envoy who negotiated the deal, said on Wednesday that the level of violence had decreased but it was too soon to give a date for further negotiations for a more comprehensive peace settlement.
The government side said the drone attack on al-Anad airbase showed the Houthis were “not ready for peace”. The drone resembled a type made in Iran.