Houthi rebels have claimed they shot down a Saudi jet that crashed in northern Yemen, although the Riyadh-led coalition says the crash was due to a “technical glitch”.
The coalition confirmed the loss of the plane, according to a statement carried by Saudi state news agency SPA. It said the jet belonging to the Saudi Royal Air Force experienced a technical fault and crashed in the war zone. The pilots survived the crash and were evacuated in a special joint search and rescue operation, according to the coalition.
“The Arab Coalition Forces Command implemented a private joint operation to evacuate two pilots in participation of air and land forces where the two pilots were evacuated into the Kingdom’s territories,” the spokesman of the Joint Coalition Forces, Colonel Turki Al-Malki, told the SPA in the statement.
The spokesman did not provide any information on the type of warplane.
However, the Houthi -affiliated Al-Masirah news outlet claimed the plane was hit by “the Yemeni air defense.” The outlet identified the jet as a British-made Panavia Tornado. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the region using warplanes of this type.
The Saudi coalition began its military campaign in Yemen nearly three years ago in an attempt to propel ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi back to power and to prevent Houthi rebels from taking control of the country. The intervention has yielded modest military gains, as large parts of the country are still under control of the Houthi rebel group.
Since the start of operations, the coalition has been accused by people on the ground and rights groups of massacre of civilians during the strikes, but it has rarely acknowledged responsibility. The conflict, has thus far, claimed the lives of at least 10,000 people, according to UN estimates.
The alliance has also lost a number of warplanes and helicopters during the campaign. While Riyadh has blamed the losses on “technical problems,” the Houthi rebels have been quick to claim credit for downing the aircraft.