Houthi rebels claim shooting down second US drone in past week

by Vern Evans

CAIRO — The Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed on Tuesday that they shot down an American drone over the country on the Arabian Peninsula. The U.S. military acknowledged reports about the downing but didn’t comment.

If confirmed, it would be the second MQ-9 Reaper drone downed by the Houthis over the past week as they press their campaign over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

Last Friday, the Houthis claimed downing an American drone over the province of Marib, hours after footage circulated online of what appeared to be the wreckage of an MQ-9 Reaper.

In a statement, Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree said the latest drone was shot down with a locally made surface-to-air missile. He alleged the drone “was carrying out hostile missions” over Yemen’s southern province of Bayda. Footage released by the Houthis purportedly showing the attack indicated that the downing took place Sunday.

Responding to an Associated Press inquiry, the U.S. military’s Central Command acknowledged reports about the downing but declined to comment.

Since Yemen’s civil war started in 2014, when the Houthis seized most of the country’s north and its capital of Sanaa, the U.S. military has lost at least five drones to the rebels.

Reapers cost around $30 million apiece. They can fly at altitudes up to 50,000 feet and have an endurance of up to 24 hours before needing to land.

The Houthis in recent months have stepped up attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, demanding that Israel ends the war in Gaza, which has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians there. The war began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage.

The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration.

Shipping through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden has declined because of the threat.

The rebels claimed last week that they fired a missile towards a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Red Sea. However, the U.S. military said the warship intercepted the anti-ship ballistic missile.

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