CAIRO (AP) — Yemen’s Houthi rebels claim they shot down a U.S.-made drone over the country’s northern border with Saudi Arabia. The kingdom and the U.S. military on Monday did not immediately acknowledge losing a drone.
Brig. Gen. Yehia Sarie, a Houthi military spokesman, said in a statement their air defenses downed an AeroVironment RQ-20 Puma drone Sunday over the district of Harad in Yemen’s northern Hajjah province.
Footage later aired by the Houthi’s Al-Masirah satellite channel showed fighters gathered around the hand-launched drone, which appeared to have bullet holes in it. The battery-powered drone had a camera, also apparently struck by a bullet.
Masking tape on its tail bore what appeared to be the palm-tree and crossed-swords logo of Saudi Arabia, Arabic written on the side read “God Bless You,” an inscription common on Saudi aircraft.
The Saudi military, which has been fighting the Houthis since 2015, is not known to operate this drone. A Saudi military spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
First used by U.S. special forces, other arms of the American military now use the unarmed drone for surveillance work. The U.S. military’s Central Command and Air Force Central Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. military has lost drones in Yemen before. Last year, the Houthis twice claimed to shoot down U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drones, which can be armed with missiles.
The U.S. military has accused Iran of giving the Houthis weapons capable of shooting down its drones. Iran has denied providing the Houthis arms, despite U.N. investigators saying Iranian armaments have reached the rebels. The U.S. has interdicted ships with Iranian arms it says were bound for Yemen.
For more than a decade, the U.S. has waged a drone war against al-Qaida in Yemen, trying to eliminate what Washington considers one of the most dangerous branches of the terror network.
Rights groups have criticized the U.S. drone attacks because of its civilian casualties. An Associated Press investigation found that at least 30 civilians were killed in such attacks in 2018.
The conflict in Yemen erupted in 2014 when the Houthis overran the capital, Sanaa and much of the country’s north. The Saudi-led coalition, with support from the U.S., intervened in March 2015 to prevent the rebels from overrunning the south and restore the internationally recognized government.