Ministry of Defence confirms two Emirati pilots died in joint UAE-Egyptian exercise

First Lt Pilot Saif Khalaf Al Zaabi and First Lt Pilot Abdullah Ali Al Hamoudi died during military exercises with Egypt, the ministry said.
Mohammed bin Nakhira Al Dhaheri, the UAE Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the Arab League, along with Egyptian political and military officials, attends the funeral prayer for the four personnel who died in a military aircraft crash in Egypt. Wam
Mohammed bin Nakhira Al Dhaheri, the UAE Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the Arab League, along with Egyptian political and military officials, attends the funeral prayer for the four personnel who died in a military aircraft crash in Egypt. Wam

ABU DHABI // Two Emiratis have died during military exercises with Egypt.

A statement from the UAE Armed Forces on Thursday said a military aircraft had crashed during a routine training exercise with the Egyptian Armed Forces in Egypt.

A crew of four men died in the crash, including First Lt Pilot Saif Khalaf Al Zaabi and First Lt Pilot Abdullah Ali Al Hamoudi, the UAE Ministry of Defence confirmed.

Egyptian officials said the crash was caused by a technical failure and took place at 7pm on Wednesday in Egypt.

An ad hoc technical committee has been formed to investigate the matter, a statement from Egypt said, before going on to offer condolences to the families of the deceased.

The family of Al Zaabi expressed their pride in a “loyal” sibling “who laid down his life for the sake of the homeland”.

Khaled Al Zaabi, Saif’s brother, said Saif was ambitious and passionate about aviation. He studied hard to enrol into Khalifa Aviation College and realised his dream of becoming a pilot. He described his brother as “kind-hearted, obliging and always the first to offer help to anyone in need”.

“Saif had a special relationship with his siblings. We all loved him. He was the sixth of eight siblings, 5 boys and 3 girls. He was born in Kalbaa where he finished high school before enrolled in Khalifa College,” reported Al Ittihad, the Arabic-language sister newspaper of The National.

“He was loyal and respectful towards his parents and siblings. He liked to talk with his father about the old days and the development we see today.

“He loved to talk about aviation. He maintained a good relationship with everyone. He would always smile and everyone who met him liked him instantly. He brought us happiness even as he departed us, for he laid his life for the sake of the homeland during a patriotic mission in which he sought to honour his country.

Ali Saif Al Hamoudi, father of Abdullah said he had been moved by the outpouring of support since his son’s death.

“I accept God’s will. I am not alone in bearing this calamity; the whole of the UAE, leaders and people alike, are sharing my plight and have overwhelmed me with support and sympathy since the news came out,” he said.

Salem, 13, First Lt Pilot Al Hamoudi’s brother, said: “We last met 10 days ago. He made sure to give me good advice. My brother was kind-hearted and ethical. We looked at him as a mentor and a father, not only as a brother.”

A military funeral was held on Thursday in Egypt for the four men, reported Wam, the state news agency.

Present were UAE Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the Arab League, Mohammed bin Nakhira Al Dhaheri, as well as other Egyptian political and military officials.

The UAE Ambassador also joined a funeral prayer at Al Maza military airport.

Mr Al Dhaheri conveyed condolences of the UAE leadership, Government and people to the Egyptian defence and interior ministers. He also offered condolences to the families of the four men.

Mourners took to Twitter to honour the men, and dozens of hashtags appeared on the social media site.

Twitter users also expressed their condolences for the Egyptians who died in the crash.

Joint military training exercises between Egypt and the UAE began in March when Field Marshal Abdel Fattah El Sisi, who was Egypt’s defence minister at the time, arrived in the UAE capital for military exercises.

The exercises focused on theoretical and practical training on sophisticated weapons.

The Egyptian defence minister also offered Egyptian leadership, government and people’s condolences to the UAE.

The UAE Armed Forces could not immediately say if further statements would be issued. The Egyptian embassy in the UAE could not be reached for comment.

osalem@thenational.ae

Published: December 18, 2014 04:00 AM

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