First Published: 2017-04-19

'Friendly fire' downed Saudi helicopter in Yemen
Saudi military sources say helicopter that crashed in Yemen killing 12 Saudi soldiers appeared to have been hit by friendly fire 'from automated systems'.
Middle East Online

Helicopter was shot down due to 'technical error' with air defence system

RIYADH - A Saudi military helicopter that crashed in Yemen killing 12 Saudi soldiers was likely hit by "friendly fire", military sources said Wednesday.

The soldiers, including four officers, died Tuesday when the helicopter went down in Yemen's Marib province, the Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting Iran-backed Huthi rebels said in a statement.

"As the Saudi helicopter was not identified by the ground operations centre, the air defence system was triggered automatically," a senior Yemeni military official said.

A source familiar with the details of the incident said the helicopter appeared to have been hit by friendly fire "from automated systems".

Such incidents can happen if pilots fail to communicate with systems on the ground, the source, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP.

The Yemeni defence ministry's 26sepnews.net news website also reported on Tuesday that the helicopter had been hit by mistake.

It cited a senior Yemeni officer who said the aircraft was shot down five kilometres (around three miles) from its landing site after "a technical error that caused the air defence system to make an incorrect reading."

The website said the helicopter came down "a very long way" from rebel positions, beyond the range of their weaponry.

Coalition spokesman General Ahmed Assiri, contacted by AFP, did not confirm or deny the friendly fire reports, saying an investigation was under way and it was "too early to adopt any hypothesis".

The coalition began air strikes in Yemen in March 2015 in support of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's internationally recognised government in its fight against Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which play key roles in the coalition, have suffered its heaviest losses, with dozens of soldiers killed.

In September 2015, a rebel missile strike on a coalition base in Marib killed 67 coalition soldiers, most of them Emiratis.

The United Nations says that more than 7,700 people have been killed since March 2015 in poverty-stricken Yemen, which also faces a serious risk of famine.

Seven ceasefires brokered between government and rebel forces by the United Nations have failed, while UN-backed peace talks have repeatedly broken down.

 

Egypt Christians bury victims with tears, anger

UN says nations bombing IS must protect civilians

Palestinians end mass hunger strike in Israel jails

Probe finds over 100 Mosul civilians killed in US air strike

Syria girls escape war with Snow White

Egypt hits jihadists as IS claims deadly attack on Christians

Britain arrests two more in Manchester attack probe

Turkey charges opposition newspaper staff

Death toll in Tripoli clashes reaches 52

Hundreds of migrants rescued in major operation off Libya

Ramadan in Libya: little cash, much violence

UN braces for up to 200,000 Iraqis to flee Mosul

Iraq forces launch broad attack on IS holdouts in Mosul

Civilians flee IS-held Syria cities after deadly strikes

At least 28 dead in Tripoli clashes

26 killed in attack on Egypt Christians

Turkey identifies 'intelligence weaknesses' before coup attempt

Tunisia opens trial over 2015 beach massacre

Syria army takes control of key road

US-led strikes kill 35 civilians in east Syria

Palestinian president says US should mediate hunger strike

Libya says working closely with Britain over concert attack

EU leaders, Erdogan meet in bid to ease tensions

Myanmar to deport Turkish family wanted for alleged coup links

Iran says it has built third underground missile factory

Trump gets rough ride in EU, NATO meeting

Saudi minister confident on oil output deal

Egyptians brace for austere Ramadan

Qatari FM says country victim of smear campaign, particularly in US

Britain probes jihadist network amid row with US intelligence

Egypt blocks several media websites including Jazeera

IS suicide bomber kills five in Somalia

Israel uneasy over 'crazy' regional arms race

Algeria president replaces Prime Minister

16 civilians dead in coalition strikes near Raqa

4 arrested in Tunisia anti-corruption drive

German MPs call off Turkey visit as tensions fester

Palestinian hunger strike row draws solidarity, controversy

Britain raises terror alert, deploys troops after concert massacre

Qatar probes state news agency hack

At least 20 migrants killed in Mediterranean

Israeli joy at Trump visit lacks substance

Oman evacuates Australian man from Yemen

Bahrain police open fire on Shiite protest, kill five

Turkey arrests hunger strikers on terror charges