Saudi colonel killed in gunbattle on Yemen border
A senior Saudi officer and another border guard were killed in a gunbattle after a landmine blast along the frontier with Yemen, the interior ministry said on Saturday.
Colonel Hassan Ghasoum Ageeli and a deputy sergeant died late Friday in the Jazan district, and four other guards were lightly wounded, the ministry said in a statement.
Ageeli is one of the most senior Saudi officers killed since March when the kingdom formed an Arab coalition to fight Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen.
The landmine blast damaged vehicles patrolling the border district, the ministry said.
After backup arrived, “they were subject to heavy shooting from several locations inside the Yemeni border,” sparking a firefight, it said.
Riyadh launched air strikes against the Huthis six months ago to support the internationally-backed government of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi that was losing ground.
Saudi Arabia feared the Huthis would take over all of Yemen and move its neighbour into the orbit of the Sunni kingdom’s Shiite regional rival Iran.
But the rebels have lost territory since late July when the coalition began deploying ground troops in support of local forces.
Hadi returned to the southern city of Aden on Tuesday vowing to “liberate” the whole country.
In June, a Saudi lieutenant colonel died in a landmine blast in Jazan, while a general in August became the highest-ranked Saudi fatality when he was killed in cross-border fire.
Around 70 people have been killed in Saudi Arabia from border shelling and skirmishes since the coalition campaign began. Soldiers have accounted for most of the border casualties.
The United Nations says nearly 4,900 people, including a vast number of civilians, have been killed in Yemen since late March.