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Eritrea denies training Saudi-backed Yemeni militants

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By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

September 15, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Eritrean government has dismissed recent reports alleging that Saudi Arabia has transferred some 5,000 Yemeni militants to Eritrea for training in the Red Sea country.

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A Houthi Shiite rebel carries his weapon as he joins others to protest against Saudi-led airstrikes at a rally in Sanaa, Yemen on 1 April 2015 (Photo: AP/Hani Mohamed)

The report released by the Fars news agency (FNA), an Iranian news agency, says that Riyadh is transferring the militants from Aden to Eritrea’s Assab port to go under military trainings and then be sent to the Saudi provinces bordering Yemen.

“The terrorists, some of whom are from the Al-Qaeda, will be dispatched to Najran, Jizzan and Asir provinces to fight against the Yemeni army and popular forces and prevent their further advances in Southern Saudi Arabia,” the FNA said.

In reaction, the Eritrean government said the report is “a preposterous lie”.

“The allegation by Farsi News Agency represents a preposterous lie peddled for some ulterior motives,” said a statement issued by Asmara.

“Those who are familiar with the dynamics of the Horn of Africa/Middle East region know full well that Eritrea has been at the forefront – if not a pioneer – in the fight against Al-Qaeda and all the variants and off-shoots of this terrorist scourge,” the statement added.

The Eritrea government said as early as 1996, when imminent threat of Al-Qaeda was posed, Eritrea was locked in the fight against emerging plots and designs of the Ben-Laden group which was operating from the region at that point in time.

“Eritrea’s unremitting and long-standing stance against terrorism is thus a matter of historical record,” it said..

The Saudi-led war against the Iranian- backed Shi’ite Houthi fighters in Yemen begun in 2015, after the internationally recognized President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi asked Arab countries for military assistance.

The request was made after an offensive by the Houthis who joined the former President Ali Saleh - ousted by Arab Spring protests in 2011 - and attacked the Hadi government at its provisional capital of Aden in March 2015.

(ST)

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