The funerals of four UAE soldiers who died in a helicopter crash in Yemen on Friday took place on Saturday night.
The dead have been named as Captain Ahmed Khalifa Al Baloushi, from Al Ain; 1st Lieutenant Pilot Jassem Saleh Al Zaabi, from Ras Al Khaimah; Warrant Officer Mohammed Saeed Al Hassani, from Fujairah; and Warrant Officer Sameer Mohammed Murad Abu Bakr, from Ajman. They were killed in a helicopter crash due to a technical failure during “a regular mission” in Shabwa province in Yemen while taking part in a Saudi-led campaign targeting Shiite rebels there.
The Ras Al Khaimah ruler, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, led funeral prayers for Al Zaabi and the Ajman Crown Prince, Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, led prayers for Abu Bakr, while similar prayers were held for the other servicemen in their respective home towns.
Abu Bakr was one of 28 brothers and sisters and a father of a one-year-old boy.
The 30-year-old leaves behind not only his son, Shihab, but his mother, his wife and 11 sisters and 16 brothers - the youngest of whom is aged seven.
“I was driving back home when I heard the news about a helicopter crash. For some reason, my heart and thoughts were all about Mohammed at that specific moment, and I was repeating, ‘God protect them all’,” said his 39-year-old brother Suleiman.
Later on Friday, Suleiman received a message from the Armed Forces telling him that his brother had died.
He said he couldn't tell his family, he needed some time to believe the news but, before he could tell anyone, he discovered that they already knew.
“Messages of my brother’s passing away were circulating and they reached my sisters. They told my mother, who collapsed. It’s very tough at home right now, they can’t talk,” he said.
Abu Bakr, his wife and their only son were living with his mother.
“He was the dearest to her heart and lived with her in the same house. How could a mother take the news of her son’s death? God be with us,” said Suleiman.
Seven of his brothers are in the army.
Hassan Mohamad Youssef Abdall, 50, is from the same Ajman village as Sameer, Nadi Al Shalaa, and now works with his brother.
Mr Abdall, who coached Sameer as a young footballer, said the soldier has made a great sacrifice for his country, and that his family should feel proud.
“We would play football with the brothers together in the street. We were one village and we are one family,” he said. “I now work with Sameer’s brother, Waleed, in Ajman government finance, so I know him well. It is a difficult time but we are Muslim and we know he led a good life.”
First Lieutenant Pilot Jassim Salem Al Zaabi was hailed as a hero to his entire family and community in Al Jazeerah, RAK.
The 27-year-old pilot was sent to Yemen as part of Operation Restoring Hope, being conducted by the Saudi-led Arab coalition to support and restore the legitimate government of Yemen to power.
“Everyone in the family was planning Jassim’s engagement,” said Mr Saeed, Jassim’s eldest brother. “I am happy and proud to be the martyr brother - to be a brother for a man who gave his life defending the country.”
Jassim is survived by three brothers, Saeed, Obaid and Mohammed, and four sisters.
“My brother was well respected in the family and in our town,” said Mr Saeed. “He left a huge gap in the family.”
Mr Saeed said that their father died seven months ago. “Although we are proud that a member of a family died serving the country, we are extremely saddened by his loss.
“My family members are ready to take my brother’s path. Everyone in the family is fully prepared to perform their national duty.”
Mr Saeed said hearing the news of his brother’s death was the hardest and the proudest moment of his life.
Martyr Mohammed Saeed Al Hassani, 39, was the father of six children: Rashid, Abdul Rahman, Maryam, Saeed, Ibrahim and Abdullah. He was from a family of 10 who live in Dadna, Fujairah.
“My brother is a pride to us and to the UAE,” his brother told Aletihad newspaper. “We follow in his steps and are willing to sacrifice our lives for our country.”
His father added: “We are all willing to sacrifice our lives for the UAE, and my son the martyr has gone to heaven.”
The bodies of the servicemen arrived at Al Bateen Airport in Abu Dhabi just before 1pm on Saturday and funerals took place later that evening.
Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, Vice Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, tweeted: “Emirati men set the best example of sacrifice and devotion for the sake of their country, of bringing justice and of spreading peace. May God have mercy on the souls of our martyrs.”
Initial reports issued by the Saudi Press Agency late on Friday said the soldiers sustained “minor injuries” following an emergency landing but it proved to be a fatal crash.
Shabwa, the scene of the crash, has seen US airstrikes targeting Yemen’s local branch of Al Qaeda amid the Saudi-led war. In June, the US military’s Central Command said a strike there killed Abu Khattab Al Awlaqi, the emir of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The US considers the Al Qaeda faction one of the most dangerous threats to the West.
The Saudi-led coalition began its war in Yemen in March 2015 against Iranian-backed rebels who hold the capital, Sanaa.