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Pilots survive Yemen plane crash

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RIYADH, Jan 7, (AFP): A Saudi warplane from the coalition battling rebels in Yemen crashed on Sunday because of “technical failure”, the coalition and state media said, adding that both crew were rescued. The plane “had a technical failure at 15:40 (1840 GMT) and crashed … in an area of operations” in Yemen, Turki al- Maliki, the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, told AFP.

He said the two crew members were rescued unharmed and returned to Saudi Arabia. Maliki gave no further details. A coalition statement released later by the official Saudi Press Agency said the warplane that crashed was Saudi and that the operation to rescue the crew involved ground forces. Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who are locked in a war with Yemen’s Saudi-backed government, said they shot down the plane over Saada, their northern Yemeni stronghold, according to their Al-Masirah television channel. The Saudi-led coalition joined the Yemeni government in its fight against the Houthis in March 2015, after the rebels seized control of the capital Sanaa. Despite the coalition’s superior firepower, the rebels still control the capital and much of north Yemen.

More than 8,750 people have been killed since the coalition intervened in Yemen, according to the World Health Organization. The political party of Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was killed in December by his erstwhile Houthi rebel allies, on Sunday named his replacement. The General People’s Congress, a key player in Yemeni politics for decades, elected former deputy premier Sadiq Amin Aburas by consensus at a meeting of its general committee, it said in a statement. It made no mention of the Houthis, but said it would continue to “reject and resist aggression and siege” against Yemen, a reference to a military campaign being waged since 2015 by a Saudi-led coalition. Aburas, 65, is seen as having been close to Saleh, the longtime Yemeni strongman killed by Houthi gunmen on December 4 after their alliance collapsed.

Saleh held power in the Arabian Peninsula country for three decades before being ousted in 2012 following mass protests. He later allied with his former enemies, the Iran-backed Houthis, to seize the capital in 2014 from the internationally backed government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. That prompted Iran’s regional arch-rival Saudi Arabia to lead an intervention against the alliance the following year.

In late 2017, the Saleh-Houthi alliance fell apart after Saleh offered to “turn the page” with Riyadh in return for a ceasefire and the lifting of a crippling blockade. That sparked fighting in the streets of Sanaa, and Saleh was gunned down as he tried to fl ee. The GPC said Aburas would lead it until its next general assembly, a date for which could not yet be set “because of the current difficulties”. Aburas also heads the party’s fivemember executive committee. The GPC said it was still open to dialogue and “national reconciliation”. More than 8,750 people have been killed since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen, according to the World Health Organization. The country also faces what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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