A new weapon threatens Riyadh Agreement in South Yemen


Tue, 06-10-2020 11:02 PM, Aden

South24| Jacob Al-Sufyani

On the fourth of September 2020, Yemeni government media controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, and Yemeni personalities in Doha and Istanbul, claimed that a drone targeted their forces in Shuqra city in Abyan governorate, south of Yemen, killing the staff of the 39th Brigade and a number of soldiers.

Thirty days later, on the fourth of October 2020, the southern forces accused the Yemeni government forces of using drones that launched, for the first time, projectiles at the southern forces' positions in the «coastal sector», east of Zinjibar.

 “South24” examines in this report the reality of these drones, the allegations of their use in the ongoing fighting between the Southern Transitional Council and the Yemeni government in Abyan, and the extent to which regional countries have been involved in financing armed militias loyal to the government with this kind of military technology, and its implications for future peace efforts in South Yemen.


Drones are aircraft that are guided remotely by sophisticated guidance systems. They are mostly used for reconnaissance and movement monitoring missions, carrying a high-resolution camera, but they may also be used in combat missions where they can carry and fire projectiles, and what a drone carries may reach To a weight of 100 kilograms of projectiles, bombs and missiles intended for this use.

Drones are among the effective weapons on the battlefield, and they represent, along with the «Cornet» thermal missiles, weapons of great influence in military conflicts such as the conflict on the various Yemeni fronts.

The Houthis group in North Yemen is famous for using this type of weapon, mainly in its war with Saudi Arabia. It has tried to bomb Saudi targets, airports and camps dozens of times over the past five years, but its drones were often destroyed [1]. The Houthis used drones in their war against local opponents as well, on the fronts of the West Coast and the North of Al-Dhalea fronts in which Huthis is fighting the southern and combined forces. A number of these Drones there were destroyed.

Iran is - according to intelligence and other UN reports - behind supplying the Houthis with drones, and the matter came out of the confidentiality circle with the statement of the Iranian forces spokesman, Abu al-Fadl Shikaraji, to Fars agency, that Iran has put the technology for producing missiles and drones “at the disposal”of Yemen. In reference to the Iranian-backed Houthi militia. [2]

Remains of an Iranian Qasef 1 drone, launched by the Houthis into Saudi Arabia, December 14, 2017 / The AP

Abyan war

Since its outbreak on May 11 of the current year, the war in Abyan governorate between the southern forces of the STC and government forces controlled by the Islah party, the Brotherhood organization in Yemen, constituted one of the worst military conflicts in Yemen since liberate the South in 2015.

In this war, the two sides used a wide range of heavy, medium and light weapons, most of them from  Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which together form the Arab coalition. Tanks, anti-aircraft guns, self-propelled guns, various machine guns, RPGs, armored vehicles, and thermal missiles. However, the entry of drone technology into the battles of Abyan is a dangerous development, according to military experts.

With exception of the Houthis and the Arab coalition forces, other military parties in Yemen are not known to use drones, but in recent times there has been an increase in mutual accusations between southern forces and the Muslim Brotherhood forces loyal to the government, using this weapon.

Military and strategic expert, Brigadier General Thabet Hussein Saleh, told «south24» that «the effect of using this weapon in the Yemeni war will be dangerous.»

The government forces in Abyan preceded the southern forces and announced that a drone raid targeted a tank in the «Sheikh Salem» area of ​​Abyan governorate, wounding the staff of the 39th Brigade, Colonel Al Khader Muqilib, and wounding 11 others. Qatari and other TV channels affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, such as Al-Jazeera and Bilqis TV, accused the UAE of providing the STC fighters with these drones.

"The impact of using this weapon in the Yemeni war will be dangerous"

Only two days after these accusations, the official spokesman for the southern forces, Mohammad al-Naqib, stated that two drones launched by the government forces flew over the southern forces's positions, and on September 21, the official spokesman said that the southern forces had spotted the flight of a “Brotherhood drone,” adding that this It coincided with «mortar shelling by the Muslim Brotherhood militia».

Some saw the promotion of the Qatari Al-Jazeera channel and Yemeni activists close to Qatar and Turkey of the story of the drones use  against government forces in Abyan, as part of the government forces plan to cover up their use of this type of weapon in the coming days, which was later confirmed by southern military leaders.

On October 4, the official spokesman for the Fourth Military Region and Abyan Axis, Mohammad al-Naqib, said that government forces controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood fired projectiles of drones towards the southern forces' positions in the coastal sector in Abyan.

A drone was shot down by the joint forces at the Morais front in Al-Dhalea, December 2018 (local media)

Who uses the drone?

In a report [3], the London-based Al-Arab newspaper said, "The brotherhood of Yemen are igniting the Abyan confrontations to obstruct governmental changes that threaten their influence."

The report, which was published on September 5 of this year, indicated that “the media rumors broadcast by Yemeni media activists close to Doha and Ankara in the past two days claiming the participation of drones against them in Abyan constitute a preconception in order to justify the use of groups affiliated with the Brotherhood in The next period, drones acquired from Turkey.

«Turkish officers were present in Shabwa governorate, adjacent to Abyan, who were training armed elements of the so-called (Popular Mobilization) camp funded by Qatar,» the report indicated, 

In an exclusive interview with «South24», the official spokesman for the southern forces in Abyan, Mohammad al-Naqib, confirmed that the Yemeni government forces used this weapon (drons).

Al-Naqib considered that accusing them from the government forces of using drones «purpose was to cover up its use of this weapon, which really happened only two days later, when we detected two Brotherhood drones flying over our forces' postions, and on October 4 this month, a drone belonging to the same militia launched a projectile towards the postions of our forces, and on October 5 we detected two flying drones forced back by our forces' fire.»

The drones used by the «Muslim Brotherhood militias were ineffective on the battlefield for several reasons, including the ability and efficiency of the southern forces in dealing with these Drones ,» Al-Naqib considered

Al-Naqib says that preliminary information indicates that this type of Drones «are coming from Turkey and are the same that Turkey uses in its war against the Libyan people.»

Turkish drone (Bayrak Dar), Turkish media

He denied the use of any drones weapon against the Yemeni government forces, and told «south24» that these false allegations «were not based on evidence on the ground and reflect the state of military powerlessness that afflicted the Brotherhood's forces».

Al-Naqib did not rule out the hypothesis of providing the Houthis with drones for government forces, considering that «all indications confirm that the Houthi and Brotherhood militias have had a solid relationship recently, especially with the intersection of the two sides' goals of the war on the south and the exhaustion of the Arab coalition countries and plotting against them.»

The official spokesman of the Abyan front revealed that these projectile of drones «are subject to study and analysis by specialists».
Military and strategic expert Thabet Hussein Saleh considered that «what is present in Abyan are reconnaissance drones only,» indicating to «south24» that «these technologies can be sold by China because of its open market and do not require quality, and the factories exist outside the control of the state, and Iran may buy them and develop them because existence of their capabilities and expertise in this aspect.»

Saleh indicated to “south24” that the Dovas point - in Abyan - “had previously seized drones coming from Oman and al-Mahra that the legitimate forces wanted to use against the southern forces in the battles for control of Aden in August 2019.”

“South24” made contacts and correspondence with security and military leaders of the Yemeni government in Abyan governorate, to know their opinion of this information, but it refused to respond until the moment this report was published.

Failure of a political solution

Hours before the southern forces announced that they had been bombed by a drone, the head of the Southern Transitional Council, Major General Aidaroos Al-Zubaidi, had announced that the Council had submitted a military relocation plan to implement this part of the Riyadh agreement, in his speech to the Presidency of the Council via video technology, in light of news of an imminent announcement of a new government in the coming days. [4]

Yemeni sources had spoken to «south24» earlier, accusing the Muslim Brotherhood (Islah Party), supported by Qatar, within the legitimacy of seeking to thwart peace efforts in South Yemen.[5]

«Progress in forming the government is a good thing, but it is clear that there are those who are ascending on the ground and not interested in the progress of things in Riyadh,» a member of the STC Presidency, Salem Thabet Al-Awlaki, said.

Al-Awlaki said, on Twitter, that «the drones use against the southern forces in Abyan and the declared threat to the coalition headquarters in Shabwa reveals an agenda that does not follow the Riyadh Agreement.»
The forces that launched the drones towards the southern forces are “forces that rejected President Hadi’s directives to cease fire and left occupied Ma'rib and Sana’a to invade the south,” said Mohammad al-Naqib to «south24».

The drones fly from here

Iran and Turkey are distinguished in the field of drones, and Turkey has one of the fastest drones in the world, «Bayrak Dar». the field of drones that increased interest in it with the arrival of Turkish President Erdogan to power.

Iran, also, which has admitted to providing the Houthis with the technology of manufacture of drones, manufactured many of these models and participated in some of them in the Iraq and Syria wars, and it is likely that they were the same models that attacked Saudi Aramco and other oil positions in the UAE and the Kingdom more than once.

The Iranian-Turkish rapprochement, in which Qatar plays the link, resulted in a tripartite axis that has its own agendas in many Arab countries, including Yemen, which puts great possibilities that the drones used by the Yemeni forces controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, recently, are coming from one of the These countries, and Turkey is the strongest and closest of these possibilities.

It should be noted that the Qatari Air Force has introduced "Bayrak Dar" drones into its military arsenal, after purchasing several batches of this weapon.

Documents owned by the intelligence agent known internationally as «Jason J», published by the Austrian newspaper «Die Press», revealed that Doha «is financing the activities of the Houthis in Yemen, including the recent attacks on Saudi Arabia.» [6]

And between the Kornet missiles and the drones, the great possibilities of an explosion of the military situation in Abyan remain, especially since the forces loyal to the Hadi government have not publicly disclosed that they possess this weapon. This may be attributed to the fear that these forces have of revealing their relationship with regional countries that oppose the Saudi-led coalition, such as Qatar and Turkey, which could make them vulnerable to direct military targeting. That will likely change many of the military and political realities on the ground.

- Jacob Al-Sufyani is a journalist and editor at the South24 Center for News and Studies

[1] قناة العربية: اليمن.. إسقاط 23 طائرة مسيرة حوثية في شهر alarabiya.net
[2] قناة الحرة: إيران تعترف بتزويد الحوثيين بتقنيات طائرات مسيرة وصواريخ. alhurra.com
[3] العرب اللندنية: إخوان اليمن يشعلون مواجهات أبين لعرقلة تغييرات حكومية تهدد نفوذهم. alarab.co.uk 
[4] سوث24: الانتقالي يقدّم خطته العسكرية والرياض تدفع لإعلان حكومة المناصفة south24.net
[5] سوث24: نفس المصدر south24.net
[6] The National: Qatar paid for Houthi drones used in attacks on Saudi Arabia thenational.ae

Southern Transitional CouncilSouth YemenAbyanRiyadh AgreementDronsBrotherhood MilitiaYemeni Government