Twelve Saudi soldiers have been killed when their helicopter crashed in Yemen. Preliminary observations conclude that it was shot down in a friendly fire incident.
The Saudi-led military coalition said the Black Hawk helicopter came down in the eastern province of Marib on April 18, coinciding with US Defense Secretary James Mattis' visit to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, to discuss the issue of Yemen with Saudi leaders. Four of the killed ranked as officers.
The coalition said it was currently investigating the cause and circumstances of the crash. Meanwhile Yemeni media quoted a senior source in the army command as saying that the helicopter crashed down "as a result of a misreading of the air defense system which resulted in the destruction of the plane before it landed".
That information could not, however, be officially verified; Coalition spokesman General Ahmed Assiri told the AFP news agency that it was "too early" to comment on the causes of the crash - one of the deadliest incidents involving coalition forces in Yemen.
War in Yemen continues
In the past weeks, fighting has intensified in Yeman's western coastline regions. Coalition officials said they were preparing for the recapture of the Red Sea port city of Hoedida.
The Saudi-led coalition has been waging a military campaign to dislodge Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, who seized Yemen's capital Sana'a and other parts of the country in 2014, forcing the country's internationally-recognized government to flee into exile.
The civil war has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 civilians and has led to the displacement of some 3 million Yemenis. A famine is also looming, according to the United Nations. Dozens of soldiers, mainly from Saudi Arabia, have also died in conflict. The Saudi-led alliance is comprised of a number of Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan.
ss/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)