Saudi Arabia, allies launch air strikes against Houthis in Yemen

Updated 26 Mar 2015

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A 10-country coalition had joined in the military campaign, says SA envoy. —Reuters
A 10-country coalition had joined in the military campaign, says SA envoy. —Reuters

WASHINGTON: Saudi Arabia said Thursday that five Muslim countries including Egypt and Pakistan want to participate in the Gulf-led military coalition against Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Together with Jordan, Morocco and Sudan, they have “expressed desire to participate in the operation” against the rebels, which the kingdom dubbed “Firmness Storm”, Saudi SPA state news agency said.

Saudi Arabia and four other Gulf states, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, announced earlier a decision to “answer the call of President Hadi to protect Yemen and his people from the aggression of the (Shia) Houthi militia.“

The Kingdom and its allies launched air strikes in Yemen against Houthi fighters, who have tightened their grip in southern city of Aden where the country's president had taken refuge, the Saudi envoy to Washington said on Wednesday.

The kingdom's ambassador to the United States announced from Washington that a coalition of 10 countries, including the five Gulf monarchies, had been set up to protect the Yemeni government.

He declined to give any information on Hadi's whereabouts, but said the president, who has fled his residence, was still running the government along with members of his Cabinet.

Jubeir said Iranian-backed Houthi Shia militants were now in control of the Yemeni air force and of the country's ballistic weapons.

“This is a very dangerous situation and we must do everything we can, to protect the people of Yemen and protect the legitimate government of Yemen,” Jubeir told a news conference at the embassy.

He told reporters that Saudi Arabia had consulted with the United States but that Washington was not participating in the military operation.

A US official who asked not be named told Reuters that the United States was providing support to Saudi Arabia as it carries out its operation, but gave no details.

Jubeir said the operation, which was launched at 2300 GMT on Wednesday in response to a request for assistance by Hadi, was not limited to one particular city or region.

“We have air assets from a number of countries in the kingdom and we have military assets that are on their way to the kingdom to participate in these operations,” Jubeir said.

Jubeir did not name any of the countries involved in the “10-strong coalition” but said it included Saudi Arabia's Gulf Arab allies.

Read: Houthis consolidate control over Yemen state institutions

These latest developments follow a southward advance by Houthi militants, who are said to be backed by Iran, who took control of the capital Sanaa in September and seized the central city of Taiz at the weekend as they move closer to the new southern base of US-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Iran condemns assault

The Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned on Thursday the military operation by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies in Yemen, state television reported.

It gave no further details.

Iran denies providing money and training to the Shia Houthi militia in Yemen, as claimed by some Western and Yemeni officials.