SANAA (Dispatches) -- A Yemeni official says a senior commander loyal to Saudi-backed former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has defected to the army and allied fighters from the Popular Committees.
In a post on his Facebook page, Muhammad Nasser al-Bukhaiti, a member of the political bureau of the Houthi movement, said Lieutenant Colonel Maqbool Ali Ghanem Qahtan, the commander of the artillery in the 156th Brigade in Jawf Province, had joined the Yemeni armed forces.
All those under Qahtan's command have also decided to defect to the army and hand over their equipment to the Yemeni fighters, he added.
Recently, Yemen’s armed forces spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Sare'e announced that more than 2,000 mercenaries had left the ranks of the Saudi-led coalition, which have been engaged, since 2015, in a bloody war on Yemen aimed at reinstating Hadi.
The Western-backed military aggression, coupled with a naval blockade, has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis, destroyed the country’s infrastructure, and led to a massive humanitarian crisis.
In another development on Friday, the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera TV network reported that pro-Hadi militants took control of the headquarters of the UAE-sponsored Southern Transitional Council in Ataq district of southern Shabwah Province.
In recent weeks, southern Yemen has witnessed clashes between UAE-backed southern separatists and Saudi-led militants loyal to Hadi, exposing split between the once-allied groups. Both camps serve the Riyadh-led coalition.
The clashes erupted in the port city of Aden weeks after the UAE announced a surprise plan to withdraw part of its troops from Yemen in a major blow to its coalition allies.
On Saturday, Yemen’s armed forces spokesman Sare'e said the Yemeni forces launched drone strikes on King Khalid air base in Saudi Arabia's southwestern Asir Province in retaliation for the kingdom’s military aggression.
He said that the Yemenis used a number of Qasef-K2 drones in their operation.
Yemeni drones successfully hit their targets, among them fighter jet hangers and runways at King Khalid air base, Sare'e noted.
Meanwhile, Yemeni armed forces displayed two domestically-built long-range, surface-to-air missile defense systems, which could act as a game changer in the conflict.
Speaking at a press conference in Sana'a on Saturday, General Sare’e identified the mobile systems as Fater-1 (Innovator-1) and Thaqib-1 (Piercer-1).
He said the Fater-1 long-range missile defense system entered service back in 2017, and carried out its first operation against the Saudi-led military coalition on October 27 that year.
Sare’e noted that the system is capable of intercepting and targeting American F-15 and F-16 fighter aircraft, French Dassault Mirage 2000 fourth-generation jet fighters as well as Eurofighter Typhoon multirole fighters.
"Fater-1 has succeeded in thwarting many hostile air raids in addition to landing operations in Hajjah province. An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down this June, while it was conducting a sortie over Hudaydah, with a missile from this system. Another aircraft of the same type was targeted in the skies over Dhamar province earlier this month,” he said.
Sare’e went on to say that the Thaqib-1 missile system became operational in October 2017, and succeeded in downing an MQ-9 Reaper drone one month after entering service.
He said the system had intercepted Saudi-led Apache attack helicopters south of Hudaydah on September 6, 2018, forcing the aircraft to stop flying over the region for several months.
Sare’e said the Thaqib-1 missile system has succeeded in confronting a number of Saudi-led reconnaissance aircraft, warplanes and Apache helicopters, stressing that it is now in use in a number of Yemeni regions.