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Sudanese planes pound Houthi targets in Yemen

April 1, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir announced today that the country’s air force swung into action as part of the Saudi-led coalition against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

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Undated Al-Arabiya TV footage showing Sudanese Su-24 parked at King Khalid Air Force Base in Saudi Arabia

“Sudanese pilots are representing you well as they fly their jets over the skies of Yemen in support of legitimacy and to defend the security of the Two Holy Mosques [in Saudi Arabia],” Bashir said at a campaign rally in Central Darfur state capital of Zalingi.

“We tell our brothers in the coalition nations and particularly the brothers in the kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] that the Sudanese people are standing behind you and strongly support [Operation] Firmness Storm,” he added.

This is the first time Sudan speaks of actual airstrikes conducted by its air force in Yemen.

The Sudanese leader told al-Masry al-Youm newspaper in Cairo on Monday that their participation in the coalition is “symbolic” consisting of 3 Russian Sukhoi-24 fighters and some transport planes.

Other Sudanese officials spoke of four Su-24 planes.

Bashir also expressed readiness to send an infantry division for any ground operations “if requested to do so” by the Saudis.

The coalition includes United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt, but it was not clear which carried out actual strikes.

Only UAE has publicly announced participation of its jets in actual operations over Yemen which started last week by airstrikes an air bases, military bases and anti-aircraft positions in the capital of Sana’a and other Yemeni cities.

The coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmad al-Assiri has not mentioned the participation of the Sudanese Air Force in strikes.

There was no official statement from the Sudanese army either.

On Tuesday, the Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV showed footage of Sudanese Su-24 at King Khalid Air Force Base.

Defence News magazine noted that Sudan acquired 12 Su-24 aircraft from Belarus in 2013 adding that the aircraft have been modified to the Su-24M export model by Belarus, according to the end-user certificate issued, and are fitted with two external fuel pods that would extend the range and loiter time over a target area.

The operational range of the Fencer is a little over 600 kilometres.

(ST)