of life for over 15 years, ever since the first US drone strike here targeting
al-Qaeda in 2002.
On Thursday, an attack on a military base where America once
ran its drone program showed that the US is no longer the only force deploying
them, the AP reported.The attack by Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels that killed at
least six people shows how the Arab world’s poorest country has become one of
the world’s top battlefields for drones.
Both the rebels and the Saudi-led
coalition fighting them, as well as the US, continue to use them for
surveillance and attacks.But while the US uses American-made drones and the coalition
has turned to Chinese suppliers, the manufacturer of the Houthis’ drones in
both the air and the sea has been a contentious question.Iran linkA 2018 report by a United Nations panel of experts on Yemen
looked particularly at the Houthis’ Qatef-1 drone.“Although Houthi-aligned media announced that the
Sana’a-based ministry of defence manufactured the (drone), in reality they are
assembled from components supplied by an outside source and shipped into
Yemen,” the report said.
The Qatef, or “Striker,” ″is virtually identical in
design, dimensions and capability to that of the Ababil-T, manufactured by the
Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries.”The Ababil-T can deliver up to a 45-kilogram (100-pound)
warhead up to 150 kilometers (95 miles) away.The Qatef-2K, which the Houthis said they used in Thursday’s
attack, similarly resembles the Iranian designs.A research group called Conflict Armament Research, with the
permission of the United Arab Emirates’ elite Presidential Guard, also examined
seized drones used by the Houthis and their allies to crash into Patriot
missile batteries in Saudi Arabia.The research group similarly said those drones share
“near-identical design and construction characteristics” of Iranian drones.Drone boatCoalition forces last year also showed journalists a Houthi
“drone boat” filled with explosives that failed to detonate.The officials also shared black-and-white images they said
came from the “drone boat.” They said the pictures and associated data from the
boat’s computer showed Iranians building components for its guidance system in
eastern Tehran, with a hat in the background of one picture bearing the symbol
of Iran’s hard-line paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.They said those involved in building the components probably
believed it would be destroyed in the blast, so they didn’t wipe the computer’s
hard drive.For its part, Iran repeatedly has denied supplying the
Houthis with drone or ballistic missile technology.
However, Iran would have an
interest in seeing Saudi Arabia, its arch-rival in the region, tied down in a
bloody, protracted conflict with no clear end in sight.
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