At least five British Special Forces commandos have been wounded in gun battles as part of a top-secret UK military campaign in Yemen. The troops are all said to be members of the Special Boat Service (SBS), the Royal Navy's equivalent of the British Army's SAS, which recruits mainly from the Royal Marines. The SBS specialises in "mounting clandestine operations against targets at sea, in rivers or harbours and against occupied coastlines", says the Armed Forces website.
The men, who are understood to be now recovering in the UK, were injured during a "top-secret" military campaign, according to the Mail on Sunday. They were treated for leg and arm wounds following battles in the Saada area of northern Yemen, where up to 30 British troops are based.
The Mail on Sunday also revealed how RAF engineers sent to Saudi Arabia to repair the kingdom's fleet of military aircrafts narrowly escaped death last week. Iranian-backed rebels are reported to have launched a "suicide drone" strike on the King Khalid airbase, where they are maintaining Tornado jets used to bomb civilian areas in Yemen.
Details of British troop involvement is likely to spark further controversy as the war, described by the UN as the worst humanitarian crises since the Second World War, enters its fifth year. Strong disagreement over British involvement in the conflict saw five opposition parties in Westminster yesterday calling on the UK to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia saying it has contributed to a catastrophic humanitarian crisis.
Former government minister Andrew Mitchell said last night the UK was "shamefully complicit" in Saudi Arabia's role in Yemen. He called on the government to provide further explanations to Parliament about the role of the British troops.
A SBS source was quoted saying: "The guys are fighting in the inhospitable desert and mountainous terrain against highly committed and well-equipped Houthi rebels. The SBS's role is mainly training and mentoring but on occasions, they have found themselves in firefights and some British troops have been shot."
The unnamed source continued: "In a contact a few weeks ago, a SBS guy was shot in the hand and another guy was shot in the leg. Their injuries were a reminder that this is a very dangerous assignment. Obviously, nothing about the mission will be confirmed publicly by the Ministry of Defence unless a UK soldier is killed – they'd have to announce that."