Hundreds of Sudanese Troops Join Saudi-Led Campaign in Yemen

  • Saudi-led aircraft mistakenly bomb pro-government fighters
  • Bombed position had recently been under rebel control

Hundreds of Sudanese troops arrived in Yemen to bolster Saudi Arabia’s campaign against Shiite Houthi rebels there who forced its president into exile.

About 700 Sudanese soldiers arrived by sea on Saturday in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden, which is under coalition control, the al-Masdar news website reported. Abdullah Hamud, a witness and resident, said by phone that he saw Sudanese troops in armored and military vehicles driving in the city.

The coalition is trying to reinstate the government of President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi, which crumbled after rebels overtook the capital, Sana’a, last year, forcing him to flee to Saudi Arabia. The coalition recaptured Aden in July and has made ground advances, but Sana’a and other regions remain under Houthi control. While Hadi remains in Riyadh, Yemen’s prime minister and other cabinet members who had followed him into exile recently returned to Aden.

On Saturday, the Saudi-led coalition mistakenly bombed Yemeni government troops, killing about 30 fighters in central Taiz province, al-Masdar reported. The airstrikes hit a pro-government position in a village recaptured Friday from rebels and allied forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, according to Muath al-Mashwali, a pro-government fighter and a witness who spoke by phone. Al-Mashwali said the coalition might have not been updated on who now controls the area.

At least 2,355 civilians have been killed and nearly 5,000 wounded since the coalition airstrikes began in March, according to the United Nations, whose efforts to broker a peace deal have failed. Saudi Arabia and its allies accuse Iran of supporting the rebels, though Western diplomats have expressed skepticism about the extent of Iran’s role in Yemen. The rebels also deny being proxies of Iran. 

The deployment of Sudanese troops brings new concerns, said Harry Verhoeven, a Sudan specialist and professor of government at Georgetown University in Qatar. Sudan’s army has committed indiscriminate violence against civilians within the nation’s borders, he said.

In September, Human Rights Watch accused Sudanese special forces of killing and raping civilians in the Darfur region since early 2014. Last year, Sudan said it would put on trial 300 members of the same units for human-rights violations.

On a visit Saturday to Riyadh, Saudi’s capital, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed delivered a letter to Hadi from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, inviting him to renew peace talks, the state Saba news agency said. The Yemeni government agreed to participate in talks with rebels and Saleh, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television reported Sunday. The Saudis and their allies have said that the Houthis must disarm and pull back from territory they seized, including Sana’a, before UN-sponsored peace talks can resume.

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