Riyadh: The fate of the crew of a Saudi warplane that crashed in Yemen remained uncertain on Sunday after Iran-linked Al Houthis claimed to have shot down the aircraft.
The Riyadh-led military coalition fighting the rebels said the two officers ejected from the plane before it crashed in northern Al Jawf province on Friday but that the militia opened fire at them “in violation of international humanitarian law”.
“The joint forces command of the Coalition holds the terrorist Al Houthi militia responsible for the lives and well-being of the Tornado aircrew,” the coalition said in a statement released by the official Saudi Press Agency late Saturday.
The statement did not specify whether the crew had survived or if they had been captured after the plane crashed in Al Houthi-controlled territory.
The coalition also did not elaborate on the reasons for the crash.
The crash triggered air strikes in the area where the plane went down. The coalition conceded the “possibility of collateral damage” during what it termed a “search and rescue operation” at the site of the jet crash.
The Saudi-led coalition has been battling Al Houthis in an effort to reinstate ousted President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Mohammad Al Hadhrami, the foreign minister of Yemen’s internationally recognised government, told Bloomberg TV that the US administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran has produced “good results.”
“Keep the pressure on Iran and you will see peace in Yemen,” he said in an interview in Munich on Friday.
Last week, the US Navy seized a boat allegedly carrying Iranian weapons to the Yemen rebels, including three surface-to-air missiles and 150 antitank missiles. Iran has denied providing weapons to Al Houthis, who have taken credit for attacks on neighbouring Saudi Arabia.