Houthi Rebels Shoot Down $30 Million MQ-9 Reaper Drone

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have announced they shot down an American MQ-9 Reaper drone,  airing footage of parts that corresponded to known pieces of the unmanned aircraft.

This incident, which occurred on Thursday, was confirmed hours after video footage appeared online showing what seemed to be the wreckage of the high-tech combat drone. Houthi military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree stated that the drone was targeted with a surface-to-air missile while conducting “hostile actions” in the Marib province, a region controlled by forces loyal to Yemen’s exiled, internationally recognized government.

Footage released by the Houthis purportedly shows the missile launch and subsequent hit on the drone, with accompanying audio of their slogan, expressing strong anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiments. This event comes amid a renewed series of Houthi assaults, following a relative lull in their activities during the heightened tensions over the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

The downing of the drone on Thursday, initially reported in Yemen’s Saada province, was later confirmed by U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bryon J. McGarry, who noted an investigation is underway. The Houthis released footage featuring close-ups of the drone wreckage, including parts bearing the logo of its manufacturer, General Atomics, and serial numbers verifying its identity.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bryon J. McGarry, a Defense Department spokesperson, acknowledged to The Associated Press on Saturday that “a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 drone crashed in Yemen.” He said an investigation was underway, without elaborating.

This marks the latest in a series of U.S. drone losses attributed to the Houthis since they took control of northern Yemen and the capital, Sanaa, in 2014.

The MQ-9 Reaper, valued at approximately $30 million, is a pivotal tool in modern aerial surveillance and combat operations, capable of flying at altitudes up to 50,000 feet and remaining airborne for up to 24 hours.

In addition to the drone incident, the Houthis have intensified their campaign by attacking shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Early Saturday, a vessel came under attack off the coast of Yemen’s port city of Hodeida.

The UK Maritime Trade Operations center confirmed that a ship sustained slight damage but was able to continue its journey. The private security firm Ambrey identified the vessel as a Panama-flagged crude oil tanker, suggesting it was hit by a missile, causing a fire.

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict on October 7, the Houthis have launched over 50 attacks on shipping, seized one vessel, and sunk another, significantly disrupting maritime traffic in the region. This escalation is part of their broader demand for an end to the Gaza war, which has resulted in heavy casualties.

Despite a reduction in Houthi attacks following targeted airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition, the recent spike in their activities indicates a potentially prolonged period of instability and violence in Yemen and surrounding waters. The situation remains fluid, with international stakeholders closely monitoring developments.

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