45 UAE soldiers die in Yemen battle

Members of the Emirati armed forces carry the coffins of fallen comrades during an official repatriation ceremony in Abu Dhabi. The men were killed last Friday in Yemen's eastern province of Marib.
Members of the Emirati armed forces carry the coffins of fallen comrades during an official repatriation ceremony in Abu Dhabi. The men were killed last Friday in Yemen's eastern province of Marib.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SANAA, Yemen • The United Arab Emirates (UAE) said on Friday that 45 of its soldiers were killed fighting Houthi insurgents in a province east of Yemen's capital, in a major setback for the coalition of Arab forces that have been trying for months to vanquish the rebels.

The death toll was the largest in a single day for the military of the UAE, the Persian Gulf nation that has assumed a central role in the Saudi Arabia-led coalition seeking to restore Yemen's exiled government to power.

A statement carried by a Houthi-run news agency said the deaths came after the rebels fired what it called a ballistic missile at a military base used by the coalition in Marib province, striking an arms depot and destroying other equipment, including Apache helicopters.

Bahrain, another member of the Saudi coalition, said last Friday that five of its soldiers also had been killed.

The casualties undercut recent battlefield gains by the Saudi-backed forces as well as confident assertions by Yemeni government officials that the coalition was poised to rout the Houthis from their stronghold in the capital, Sanaa.

With more than 4,000 people killed, Yemen has hosted one of the region's bloodiest conflicts since the coalition began bombing the Houthis and their allies nearly six months ago.

With more than 4,000 people killed, Yemen has hosted one of the region's bloodiest conflicts since the coalition began bombing the Houthis and their allies nearly six months ago.

The casualties reported on Friday came at time when diplomats had been hoping to move the antagonists closer to a ceasefire.

In a sign of how the conflict could quickly escalate, warplanes of the Saudi-led forces carried out some of the most intense airstrikes on the capital in weeks last Friday.

They bombed military targets on the outskirts but also targeted the Defence Ministry, near Sanaa's historic old city, a Unesco World Heritage site, sending residents of nearby buildings fleeing the area.

The Emirates state news agency said the country's fighters had carried out "destructive air strikes" against "strongholds of the rebellious militias".

The Saudi-led coalition began bombing Yemen in March after the Houthis, a northern rebel group, drove the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi from power and into exile.

After months of a stalemated battle, Emirati soldiers played a critical role in shifting the war in favour of the coalition, including by helping anti-Houthi forces recapture Aden, a port city in Yemen's south.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 06, 2015, with the headline '45 UAE soldiers die in Yemen battle'. Print Edition | Subscribe