How the UAE’s Chinese-Made Drone Is Changing the War in Yemen

2018-04-27 | Since 2 Year

saleh alsammad

n Monday evening, video began circulating online of a black-and-white drone feed monitoring a two-car convoy driving north along Road 45, east of Hodeidah, Yemen. In the video, the drone’s target — a blue Toyota Land Cruiser — turns onto a side street. Seconds later, it is struck by a Chinese-made Blue Arrow 7 missile.

The driver of the second vehicle slams on the brakes. He and his companions rush to the lead car, now in flames. “Identify the target,” an officer orders, monitoring the drone feed from an operations room in the United Arab Emirates. The survivors start to move away from the wreckage. “Kill them! Kill the people!”

At 2:02 p.m., the second strike hits. The command room erupts in applause. “Good hit guys, good hit! We got this son of a dog’s car,” an officer cheers in footage reviewed by Foreign Policy.

Saleh al-Samad, the president of the Houthis’ Supreme Political Council, was killed in the drone strike, delivering the deathblow to an already stagnant Yemeni peace process. Samad was regarded as a conciliatory figure within the Houthi rebellion and had sought to reach a negotiated settlement to Yemen’s civil war. He was scheduled to meet with Martin Griffiths, the U.N. special envoy for Yemen, on April 28.

The exact date of the strike is still unclear, however. The Houthis announced Samad’s death on Monday, and several Western news outlets reported that he was killed the prior Thursday. But Samad was reportedly at a funeral on Saturday, indicating the strike that killed him likely took place on Sunday, April 22.

Samad’s death comes as Yemen enters its fourth year of civil war. In 2014, the Houthis took control of the country’s northwest, including the capital, Sanaa. The following year, a Saudi-led coalition, which includes the UAE, started military operations to unseat the Houthis in a conflict that has resulted in more than 10,000 deaths in Yemen.

The strike, which is the first successful assassination of a senior figure in the Houthi rebellion, highlights the growing military assertiveness of the UAE. Since 2016, the Gulf nation has been trying to establish itself as the West’s primary counterterrorism partner in the region while simultaneously bolstering its military capabilities through arms deals with Beijing.


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