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Six Colombian troops, Australian commander killed in Yemen clashes

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A handout image made available by United Arab Emirates News Agency (WAM) on November 7, 2015 shows a UAE military convoy traveling from the Al-Hamra military base to Zayed city after returning from Yemen. (AFP Photo)

Six Colombian troops and an Australian commander have been killed in clashes with Yemen’s Houthi fighters and allied forces in the southwestern part of the country.

Yemen’s al-Marssad news agency said on Tuesday that the six Colombian soldiers were killed after fighters from the Houthi Ansarullah movement and the allied army units launched attacks on Saudi-led forces in al-Amri region in Bab-el-Mandeb area, in Ta’izz Province.

The report said an Australian commander, identified as Philip Stitman, who was leading the Colombian forces was also killed in the operation.

According to Yemeni sources, the Colombians have been dispatched to Yemen based on an agreement between the United Arab Emirates, a major ally of the Saudis in the Yemen war, and Blackwater, a security services company, which is based in the United States. Washington has also helped the Saudis in their nearly nine months of bombardment of Yemen by providing logistics and intelligence to the Saudi air force.

Sources in Colombia have also confirmed the presence of Colombian nationals in Yemen, saying the troops have been promised with a weekly salary of USD 1,000 and UAE citizenship.

The New York Times reported on November 25 that the UAE has "secretly" deployed 450 Latin American troops, most of them from Colombia but among them Panamanian, Salvadoran and Chilean soldiers, to fight in the war on Yemen.

Yemeni men gather around a crater caused by an airstrike by Saudi Arabia in the capital, Sana’a, November 29, 2015. (AFP photo)

Yemenis say the Colombians fighting in Yemen are part of a larger battalion of foreign forces who have received covert training in the deserts of the UAE over the past five years.

Yemen has been under military attacks by Saudi Arabia since March 26. The Saudi military strikes were launched with the purported target of undermining Ansarullah and bringing fugitive former president of Yemen, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, back to power.

More than 7,500 people have been killed and over 14,000 others injured ever since. The strikes have also taken a heavy toll on the impoverished country’s facilities and infrastructure.

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