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2 Saudi pilots eject over Red Sea, rescued with US help

Plane stricken with technical glitch; pair returned to Kingdom with US help

  • In a handout picture released by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Saudi Arabian air force pilot Prince Image Credit: AFP
  • A Yemeni man carries a box of ammunition he took from a military depot in Aden, Yemen, Friday, March 27, 2015.Image Credit: AP

Cairo: A Saudi fighter plane was hit by a technical problem and its two pilots ejected over the Red Sea on Friday, state media said, adding that the pair had been returned to the country with American help.
“A plane of the F-15S type was stricken by a technical fault yesterday evening over the Red Sea and the two pilots were forced to use their rescue seats,” state news agency SPA quoted a defence ministry official as saying.
“Praise be to God, the pilots were rescued in coordination with the American side, and the two pilots are in good health and high spirits,” the official said. The agency said the US offered aid to rescue the airmen.
A US Defense Department official told The Associated Press that an American helicopter flew Thursday from neighbouring Djibouti to the Gulf of Aden and rescued the airmen. The official says the destroyer USS Sterett coordinated assets from the US naval base in Djibouti and the amphibious transport dock USS New York.
The US official spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorised to brief journalists by name.
Saudi Arabia and fellow Sunni-led allies in the Gulf and the Middle East are bombing the Houthi rebels.
They view the Houthi takeover of Yemen as an attempt by Iran to establish a proxy on the kingdom's southern border. Iran and the Houthis deny that Tehran arms the rebel movement, though it says it provides diplomatic and humanitarian support.

Washington says the US is providing refueling tankers and surveillance flights for the Saudi operations, and there are several US troops working in the operations center, but the US is not taking direct military action in the Gulf campaign.
At least 24 civilians were killed in Friday's strikes, bringing the toll from two days to 45 civilians, the Houthi-run Interior Ministry said. The Houthis' TV station showed footage from a market in Saada it said was struck by missiles, with images of charred bodies and wrecked vehicles.
Yemeni security officials said around 80 Houthi and allied fighters have been killed in the strikes.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the press. By Friday afternoon, more than 40 percent of Yemen's air defenses were destroyed, according to Yemeni Brig. Gen. Saleh al-Subaihi, who supports embattled Yemen President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was forced to flee the country.
The figures of civilian and combatant casualties could not be independently confirmed.
Also Friday, Saudi and Egyptian warships deployed to Bab al-Mandab, the strategic strait off Yemen at the entrance of the Red Sea, Egyptian military officials said. The strait gives the only access to Egypt's Suez Canal from the Arabian Sea and is a vital passage for shipping between Europe and Asia.

On Saturday, the Saudi Press Agency also reported that its navy had evacuated 86 diplomats and others from Aden on Wednesday.
It did not identify the nationalities of all those it evacuated in the operation, though it said diplomats from the
United Arab Emirates and Qatar were on hand Saturday when those evacuated arrived at a Jeddah naval base. Pakistan also announced Saturday it had two planes standing by to evacuate its citizens.

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