At least 6 killed by Ye­meni rebel drone bomb

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD - RICHARD SPENCER BEIRUT

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.

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