Mindanao Times

Rebel arsenal grows lethal

FROM ballistic missiles to unmanned drones, Yemen’s Huthi rebels appear to have bolstered their fighting capabiliti­es, posing a serious threat to mighty neighbour Saudi Arabia.

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In June alone, the Iran-aligned Shiite Huthis launched at least 20 missile and drone attacks on the oil-rich kingdom, Iran’s regional foe, some resulting in casualties and damage.

Saudi advanced air defences successful­ly intercepte­d most of the strikes but failed to deal with some, including a drone attack on the vital airport of Abha, in the south, that killed one person and injured 21 others.

“We have witnessed a massive increase in capability on the side of the Huthis in recent years, particular­ly relating to ballistic missiles and drone technology,” Andreas Kreig, a professor at King’s College London, told AFP.

“The current capability is far more advanced than anything the Yemeni armed forces had before the civil war,” which began in 2014, said Kreig, an expert on the Middle East.

The rebels showed off some of their advanced weaponry at an exhibition held earlier this month at an undisclose­d location to mark the fifth anniversar­y of their offensive against the Yemeni government.

Footage distribute­d by the Huthis showed models of at least 15 unmanned drones and various sizes of missiles of different ranges.

The newest of these weapons were long-range cruise missiles, dubbed “Al-Quds”, and explosives­laden “Sammad 3” drones that can hit targets as far as 1,500 kilometres (932 miles) away, according to the Huthis.

- “Made in Yemen” On the sides of the Sammad 3, the phrase “Unmanned Aircraft Force” is printed, while the cruise missile is marked “Made in Yemen” on its giant body.

AFP has not establishe­d from independen­t sources if these missiles and drones were manufactur­ed in Yemen.

Since 2014, the Huthis have controlled the capital Sanaa and vast swathes of north, central and western Yemen.

Forces of the internatio­nally-recognised government with the backing of a Saudi-led coalition have been trying to retake these territorie­s.

The conflict has killed or wounded tens of thousands of people and resulted in the world’s worst humanitari­an crisis, accordPAKI­STAN’S

ing to the United Nations.

Up until the end of 2018, the Huthis frequently used ballistic missiles they captured from Yemeni army depots to attack targets inside Saudi Arabia.

However, since the start of this year, they have shifted to Qasef 2 drones, a small booby-trapped aircraft that can evade radar detection but whose range is unknown.

The most serious attack took place on May 14 when Huthis used seven drones to target two pumping stations on Saudi Arabia’s key east-west pipeline, shutting it down for several days.

“This is the first time the Huthis have demonstrat­ed an apparent capability to hit a target 800 kilometres in Saudi territory with UAVs (drones),” Jane’s 360, a defence and

security think-tank, said in May.

“The attack on the pumping stations highlights the persisting risk of Huthis targeting of hydrocarbo­n infrastruc­ture in Jeddah, Yanbu, and potentiall­y cities such as Riyadh,” said Jane’s 360.

It said Saudi ports, military installati­ons and airports were also at risk of further attacks.

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