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Houthi rebels down US Reaper drone over Yemen

An American MQ-9 Reaper drone was shot down over territory controlled by Houthi rebels in Yemen two U.S. officials said.

The drone was downed over Yemen’s Dhamar governorate late on Tuesday, August 20, Reuters reported the officials as saying.

The Houthis took credit for the shoot-down on Tuesday. Houthi spokesperson Yahya Saria wrote on Twitter that the drone was downed by a rocket that was “was developed locally and will be revealed soon at a press conference.”

On Wednesday, Mohammad Abdul Salam, another Houthi spokesperson, described the American drone’s flight over Houthi-controlled territory as an act of aggression.

The United States has launched a number of drone strikes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group’s Yemen franchise, but is not authorized to engage the country’s Houthi rebels.

The U.S. supplies the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis as part of Yemen’s civil war, and has provided intelligence, targeting and refueling support for the Saudi bombing campaign.

Both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia accuse the Houthi rebels of being a proxy force of Iran.

“We are investigating reports of an attack by Iranian-backed Houthi forces on a U.S. unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operating in authorized airspace over Yemen,” a spokesperson for U.S. Central Command wrote The Defense Post via email on Wednesday.

“We have been clear that Iran’s provocative actions and support to militants and proxies, like the Iranian-backed Houthis, poses a serious threat to stability in the region and our partners.”

The Trump administration has publicly accused Iran of providing missile technology to the Houthis, but the Yemeni rebels say their weapons are developed indigenously. The Iranian government has denied arming the Houthis.

Houthi rebels have landed a number of deadly missile strikes in Saudi Arabia, and previously downed an American MQ-9 Reaper on June 9.

CENTCOM said the rebels used a Russian-made SA-6 surface-to-air missile in that attack, indicating “an improvement over previous Houthi capability, which we assess was enabled by Iranian assistance.”

CENTCOM also alleged that a “modified Iranian SA-7 surface-to-air missile” was used in an attempted shoot-down of another American MQ-9 that was observing a damaged tanker ship, the Kokuka Courageous, in the Gulf of Oman on June 13.

The U.S. has accused Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of being behind the explosions on the Kokuka Courageous and the Front Altair tanker ships in June.

Iran said it shot down a U.S. MQ-4 surveillance drone that violated its airspace near the strategic Strait of Hormuz in June. The U.S. denied the drone had entered Iranian airspace.

The Trump administration designated the IRGC a foreign terrorist organization earlier this year amid its “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign against Tehran.

The Senate sought to block $8.1 billion in U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia over concerns of human rights violations in the Yemen war and the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. President Trump vetoed the bill in July.

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