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Report: US behind destruction of Yemen's air defences before Saudi war

Supporters of Houthis participate in march on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Houthis' control of the Yemeni capital Sanaa, on 21 September 2019. [Mohammed Hamoud - Anadolu Agency]
Houthis in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, on 21 September 2019 [Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency]

Houthi authorities in Yemen have accused the US of destroying the country's air defence systems during the complicit reign of late, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and his nephew Ammar Mohammed Saleh according to the Sanaa-based news agency Saba.

The report, citing a Yemeni security source, revealed on Thursday that an American delegation – acting on fears that Yemen's weapons would fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda – in co-operation with the then Yemeni government began collecting and destroying the air defence weapons with the help of the company Ronco, which specialises in explosives.

The Houthi-affiliated Al-Masirah TV channel showed documentary footage of the rockets being destroyed.

The destruction of the missiles took place in two batches in the Marib province; first in 2005 and later in 2009. Ronco is said to have destroyed more than 1,260 missiles, including surface-to-air missiles (SAM), man-portable air-defence systems (MANPADS) and 103 missile batteries or launching systems according to the source.

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It is claimed by the Houthi officials that the US was intent on destroying Yemen's military capabilities well before the 2015 military intervention by the Saudi-led coalition which has resulted in tens of thousands of civilian casualties. The source also claimed that the rest of the air defence systems were destroyed during 2012-2014 by the UN-recognised President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Mint Press News explains that Saleh's nephew served as deputy director of the National Security Bureau when his uncle was in power. He was allegedly tasked with persuading Yemeni military officials to agree to the surrender and destruction of the country's air defence systems in exchange for hefty sums of money. Saleh is currently leading the coalition forces' assault on the besieged Yemeni port city of Hudaydah.

On Friday, the official Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdulsalam said in a tweet: "It was a systematic destruction carried out by the US, by destroying the foundations of its strength. This was done with the help of traitors inside."

"After the Yemeni people restored the state in the September 21 Revolution, the US came with aggression and siege to prevent the Republic of Yemen from possessing a force that stands up against of the greedy," he confirmed.

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According to a leaked cable, President Saleh was in possession of 1,435 MANPADS and agreed to destroy them at a cost of $1 million each. It was noted in the cable that the market rate for the missiles at the time was about $2,000 each.

The anti-aircraft missiles could have been used to help defend Yemen against coalition airstrikes, although the Houthis recently unveiled new domestically produced air defence systems, which they argue will change the course of the war in Yemen which is nearing the anniversary of its fifth-year. Yesterday Al-Masirah reported that Yemen's new air defences had repelled hostile warplanes over the recently captured Al-Jawf province, which shares a border with Saudi.

"The Air Defences managed – with the grace of God – to deter the formation of a number of aggressive warplanes in the sky of Al-Jawf Governorate with a number of Fater_1 surface-to-air missiles," said Brigadier Yahya Saree, spokesperson for the Yemeni armed forces, who are in an alliance with the Houthi movement.

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Asia & AmericasMiddle EastNewsUSYemen
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