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Saudi Arabia claims mysterious air base on Yemeni island amid uproar

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 mysterious air base is seen being built on Yemen's volcanic Mayyun Island in this April 11, 2021 satellite photograph from Planet Labs Inc. (Via AP)

Saudi Arabia has acknowledged that it has constructed a military base on an island in the Bab al-Mandab strait to fight the Sana’a-based government.

In a Thursday statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency, an official said all equipment currently present on Yemen's volcanic Mayyun Island is under the control of the Saudi-led war "coalition".

The unnamed official said the equipment was transferred to the island in order to enable the former Yemeni government and coalition forces to counter Ansarullah fighters, secure maritime navigation and support the West Coast forces.

Mayyun Island, which was occupied by Saudi-led forces and mercenaries in 2015, is located in the Red Sea on one of the world’s crucial maritime trade routes for energy shipments and commercial cargo.

On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that “a mysterious air base” is being built on the island, publishing satellite images of the center with a 1.85km runway alongside three hangars.

While the AP said no country had laid claim to the air base, it cited officials from the former Yemeni government as saying that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was behind the military build-up on the island.

However, the Saudi official contradicted the claim that the UAE was behind the construction, saying the “reports in the media with regard to the presence of UAE forces on the Islands of Socotra and Mayyun are baseless and unfounded.”

The source added that the current UAE role is focused within "coalition" forces on providing air support in Ma’rib, which Yemen's armed forces are trying to liberate from the control of Saudi-led mercenaries.

Back in 2019, the UAE announced that it would withdraw its forces from Yemen, in what Yemenis have described as a false declaration over fears of Yemeni retaliation.

Military officials from Yemen’s former government told the AP that Emirati ships dispatched weapons, military equipment and troops to the island in recent weeks for the construction of the air base.

UAE officials have not yet commented on the AP report.

Yemen warns to target UAE with ‘lava of fire’

In response to the developments, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Hisham Sharaf Abdullah warned that the UAE’s measures on the Socotra and Mayyun islands are in violation of international law.

Sharaf Abdullah said Yemen will not keep silent over such illegal measures by the Emiratis on Yemeni soil, Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen news network reported.

“If you do not leave our lands and islands, the lava of fire will soon reach you,” he warned the UAE.

“We advise the rulers of Abu Dhabi to maintain their lands and government within the borders of the UAE. We remind the rulers of Abu Dhabi that Yemen will be able to return them to their sanity,” the Yemeni minister added.

Saudi Arabia and its allies, the UAE in particular, have been waging a deadly war on Yemen since March 2015 to return Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to power.

The war – which the Saudis claimed would last only a few weeks but is still ongoing – has killed more than 230,000 people in what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The Saudi war has also destroyed much of Yemen’s infrastructure, and according to the UN, it has caused outbreaks of disease, and brought the poor Arab country to the brink of famine.


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