Al Dhaid vows to celebrate UAE martyr as he is laid to rest

SHARJAH // As the sun set in Al Dhaid, hundreds gathered for the funeral of an Emirati officer killed on Monday while fighting in Yemen.

Sultan Al Ketbi, 43, died along with Saudi officer Abdullah Al Sahian in a Tochka rocket strike on a Red Sea army camp near Taez.

Al Ketbi, who leaves behind eight children, was always full of life and was dedicated to fighting for the country, his brother Moded said.

“He loved his country so much that he even missed his 20-year-old daughter’s wedding three months ago because he was on duty.”

So strong was his passion that his six brothers and five sisters looked up to him as a role model, Moded said.

“We looked up to him. His good deeds and his love for the military were so profound.

“It’s a great honour for our family to have a martyr.”

But the legacy he leaves behind is filled with bittersweet memories for his parents, both in shock at the loss of their third eldest child.

“My father and mother still can’t believe that Sultan is dead,” Moded said.

“However, my parents, brothers, and sisters – as well as his wife and children – are proud that he died as a martyr for this country.”

Al Ketbi was not only passionate about his career, his brother said, adding that his approach to Islam influenced many around him.

“Many men converted to Islam after they met my brother. He showed them the meaning of true Islam, and [they] decided to join our religion,” Moded said.

After Maghreb prayer Al Ketbi’s family and members of the funeral procession carried his body to the cemetery where he was laid to rest.

Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, and Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Ruler of Ajman, were among the mourners.

Well known in his hometown, the officer had returned to the battlefield only three weeks ago.

A humble and helpful man, he was also a keen horserider, said childhood friend Mohammed Salem.

“He had a farm and raised horses. He loved his horses so much and was a good rider.

“He was an active member of the community, he helped a lot of people and was very kind to others. He was always cheerful and fun to be around.”

Dozens of other Arabian Gulf, Yemeni and Sudanese coalition soldiers were killed in Monday’s attack.

Since June about 70 Emirati servicemen have died in active duty with Operation Restoring Hope, as part of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

Most fatalities took place in Marib, when dozens of Emiratis were killed in a rocket attack on September 4.

Yemen’s legitimate government paid its condolences following the latest deaths.

In Al Dhaid, as the community paid its last respects, Moded said his brother’s legacy would continue on in his children, with his eldest son, 16-year-old Mohammed, enrolled in military school.

“He wanted his son to be a brave soldier to serve and protect his country,” he said.

And his memory will not only live on in the heart’s of his family, but among all who call the town home, said his cousin Mohammed bin Hwaiden.

“He was a fine man, a son of Al Dhaid, and now he is the first martyr from our city. No one will forget his bravery and sacrifice.”

tzriqat@thenational.ae