UAE confirms four soldiers killed in Yemen helicopter crash after 'technical malfunction'
Four soldiers from the United Arab Emirates were killed when their helicopter crashed during a mission in Yemen while taking part in a Saudi-led campaign targeting rebels, the UAE military confirmed on Saturday.
The Saudi-led coalition supporting the Yemeni government against the Houthi rebels had initially played down Friday evening's incident, saying that the pilot had been forced to make an emergency landing "resulting in minor injuries to the crew".
The UAE military said in a statement carried by the country's official WAM news agency that the four soldiers died when the helicopter crashed in the southern province of Shabwa following a "technical problem".
The Houthi rebels' news agency said on Friday that an Emirati Black Hawk had crashed in "mysterious circumstances" in the al-Rawdah district of Shabwa Province, killing two members of the six-man crew.
The Houthi-run SABA agency published alleged images of slain servicemen and the crashed helicopter.
Earlier this month, UAE-trained Yemeni special forces backed by the United States launched a major operation against al-Qaeda in Shabwa, driving it out of most of the province.
The jihadists are thought to have moved farther south into neighbouring Abyan province.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, seen by the US as the network's most dangerous branch, has exploited years of conflict between the government and the rebels to expand its presence in Yemen, particularly in southern provinces.
The UAE is a key component of the Saudi-led coalition which intervened in Yemen in 2015, when President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled into exile as the rebels threatened to overrun his last stronghold.
Scores of its soldiers have been killed.