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Yemen's Houthi rebels claim to have shot down US drone over Sanaa

Pro-Houthi media outlets claim that rebels' 'air defence' system over Yemen took down the US surveillance drone
Houthi rebels claim to have taken down US surveillance drone using a "specific weapon" (Screenshot: CGTN)

Houthi rebels say they have shot down a US reconnaissance drone in the capital Sanaa, according to local media outlets and residents living in the area. 

The alleged takedown of a US surveillance drone comes as the Houthi rebels celebrate the three-year anniversary of taking control of Sanaa, the Yemeni capital. 

Citing a military source, the Houthi-backed Al-Masira network said that an MQ-9 surveillance drone had been brought down by Houthi air defences in Sanaa. 

Local resident Mohamed al-Wade'y told Reuters that the Houthi rebels would "shoot down more and more planes" when the time comes. 

"This morning, we shot down a plane affiliated with the Saudi and American air force by the Popular Committees [anti-Houthi local militias] and with the help of God Almighty. And we will shoot down more and more [planes] with the power of God whom we trust," said Wade'y. 

'It should be questioned what role the US drones are playing in guiding Saudi-led coalition airstrikes which have already killed hundreds of civilians'

- Khalil Dewan, drone expert

No confirmation was given by the Houthi rebels as to what type of weapon was used to take down the drone, but told Al-Masira that a "suitable weapon" was used to take down the surveillance drone. 

Khalil Dewan, a researcher who specialises in armed drones and international law, told Middle East Eye that it was not surprising the Houthis had shot down the drone. 

"There's no surprise that the Houthi armed group has taken down a US MQ-9 drone over the capital Sanaa - the group has displayed sophisticated weaponry capability over the Yemen civil war," said Dewan, whose research focuses in Somalia and Yemen. 

"It's certainly not the first time the Houthis downed a US drone. The armed group reported that they destroyed a drone hovering over Marib province back in February." 

The United States backs the Saudi-led coalition by providing it with intelligence and weapons.

"It should be questioned what role the US drones are playing in guiding Saudi-led coalition airstrikes which have already killed hundreds of civilians."

Numerous videos posted on Twitter showed an object falling from the air after a projectile was fired from the ground in Sanaa. 

Other images on social media showed the burnt out remains of what appeared to be the MQ-9 drone that was reportedly shot down by the Houthis. 

Middle East Eye was unable to independently verify the images found on social media. 

A Reuters photographer said the drone came down at around 11am local time in a crowded area on the outskirts of the capital, but there were no reports of any casualties.

The charred wreckage of the aircraft was carried away by the Houthis aboard a Toyota pickup truck, according to the unnamed photographer. 

Earlier this month, Sayyid Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi, the leader of the Houthi movement in Yemen, claimed in a speech that the rebels could develop their own air-defence capabilities. 

US Central Command was also contacted but was unable to confirm or comment at the time of writing. 

The Houthi movement and its ally, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, control much of northern Yemen, including Sanaa, and are battling a Saudi-led coalition that is trying to restore the internationally recognised government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen's civil war. It began in March 2015. The Houthis eventually advanced on Hadi's interim headquarters in the southern port city of Aden, forcing him to flee the country and seek Saudi help.

The war has caused a humanitarian disaster in the country, where more than two million people have been displaced while around 750,000 are suspected to have been infected with cholera. 

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