The Saudi foreign minister and the British Ministry of Defence have confirmed claims that UK military advisers are present in control rooms and assisting the Saudi-led coalition stage airstrikes in Yemen.
The heavily criticised airstrikes have killed thousands of civilians.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir said that British officers are present in operational rooms of Saudi-led coalition and are training the anti-Houthi forces to conduct air warfare in Yemen, while the MoD insists that the British are not choosing airstrike targets
The Telegraph reports:
The Saudi air force, along with the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf allies, have backed the internationally recognised government in Yemen against a rebellion that swept much of the country from the north.
But this coalition has been heavily criticised for striking civilian targets, and Britain is under particular fire as a major weapons supplier to the Saudi air force.
The admission that British officers were working alongside Saudi and other coalition colleagues in the campaign’s operations rooms came in a briefing to The Telegraph and other journalists by the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir.
“We asked a number of allied countries to come and be part of the control centre,” he said. “I know they are aware of the target lists.”
The Ministry of Defence said that the military officials were not directly choosing targets or typing in codes for the Saudi “smart bombs” but confirmed that they were training their counterparts in doing so.
“We support Saudi forces through long-standing, pre-existing arrangements,” a spokesman said, adding that the purpose of training was to ensure “best practice” and compliance with international humanitarian law.
Human rights groups claim more than 3,000 civilians have died since the war began with the attack by the Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah al-Saleh on the capital Sana’a in 2014.
Most of those are said to have been from the Saudi-led coalition bombing campaign. As well as human rights groups, Oxfam and other charities have called for Britain to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia while the bombing campaign continues.