US investigating whether Houthis shot down drone

US official says investigation into incident is under way

An MQ-9 Reaper drone takes off at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. EPA / US Air Force handout
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The Pentagon is investigating why an MQ-9 Reaper drone crashed in Yemen this week, including whether the Houthis shot it down, a US official said on Friday.

The official told The National that an investigation is under way after the drone crashed on Thursday, and that there were no reported injuries.

If confirmed, this would be the third time the Houthis have shot down an MQ-9, which are valued at about $30 million each.

In November, the Pentagon acknowledged the loss of an MQ-9, which was shot down by the Houthis over the Red Sea. Another drone was shot down the following February.

The MQ-9 is used primarily as an “intelligence-collection asset” and can “perform strike, co-ordination and reconnaissance”, according to a US Air Force fact sheet.

The Houthis have been firing missiles and drones at international vessels in the Red Sea since shortly after the Israel-Gaza war broke out in October.

The group, which is allied with Hamas, says it wants to punish Israel and its allies for the war.

In response to the Iran-backed Houthis' aggression in the Red Sea, the US launched Operation Prosperity Guardian in December, a multinational security initiative involving 10 countries aimed at addressing maritime security challenges “with the goal of ensuring freedom of navigation for all countries”.

The US and allies have also carried out a series of strikes in Yemen against the Houthis.

This week, sources told The National that mediators have conveyed messages from the US to the Houthis, offering “incentives” including lifting the blockade of Sanaa and Hodeidah and accelerating peace talks, in return for the group halting its attacks.

Updated: April 26, 2024, 9:48 PM