Over 20 Saudi-led coalition troops ‘killed in friendly fire’, govt. forces retake key city

French-made Leclerc tanks of the Saudi-led coalition are deployed on the outskirts of the southern Yemeni port city of Aden on August 3, 2015, during a military operation against Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies. © Saleh Al-Obeidi
At least 20 Saudi-coalition troops have reportedly been killed in friendly fire in Yemen, as troops loyal to the Yemeni government captured the city of Zinjibar. The fighters died in transit to the city, when they were hit by an airstrike from their own forces.

The incident took place on Saturday evening, as the troops were moving towards Zinjibar. Their convoy was struck by a coalition airstrike according to Yemeni security officials and pro-government fighters, who were cited by AP.

This comes after three soldiers from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were killed by landmines planted by Houthi rebel forces, as the latter retreated from Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, the UAE state news agency WAM said on Saturday.

Without detailing where or when they were killed, WAM said they died while taking part in "the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia to support the legitimate government in Yemen."

On Saturday, the Saudi-led coalition retook Zinjibar after launching preliminary airstrikes and a series of coordinated attacks on strategic locations held by the rebels.

READ MORE: Saudi-led coalition ground forces help recapture Yemeni military base from Houthis

A ground force of several thousand troops, reinforced by tanks and armored personnel carriers started their latest advance on Monday, as the coalition airstrikes cleared their path. The force predominantly comprised Saudi-trained Yemeni fighters, as well as Saudi special operations and intelligence personnel supported by personnel and equipment from the United Arab Emirates.

While entering Zinjibar, three soldiers from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were killed by landmines planted by the Houthis, as rebel forces retreated from the city, UAE state news agency WAM said on Saturday. That brings the total death toll of UAE soldiers fighting in Yemen to five, as at least two other Emirati soldiers lost their lives since the offensive began.

Zinjibar became the fourth provincial capital to fall since the Saudi coalition captured Aden last month. Houthis also lost control of the strategic port of Mocha. Earlier this week the pro-Hadi forces seized a major Labouza military base, the last one being held by the Houthis in the south of the country.

Pro-Hadi forces are also advancing into Taizz, where Houthi militants began concentrating their forces after losing control of the Al Anad air base. The pro-Hadi forces armed to the teeth have the capital Sanaa and Saada, the Houthis’ home region, lined-up next.

As the battle on the ground continues, the chief of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) arrived to Sanaa on Saturday on a three-day visit to assess the “dire humanitarian situation” in the country. The organization says that 1.3 million Yemenis have been displaced by the conflict.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia sends reinforcements, dozens more tanks to Yemen

Overall the UN estimates that at least 4,000 people have been killed since the Saudi-led coalition began its airstrikes in late March. Currently the UN says some 80 per cent of Yemen’s 21 million people are in need of aid and protection.