At least 22 soldiers from the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) military have died in Yemen, officials with the country’s armed services announced Friday.
The military said they were killed when a fire broke out around dawn at an ammunition center, causing violent explosions that also claimed the lives of an unknown number of Yemeni soldiers, the National reported. Several individuals were also reportedly injured by the fire.
Militant Houthi rebels -- who are fighting a Saudi-led coalition, including the UAE -- offered conflicting reports of how the soldiers were killed. They said their forces fired a rocket at a weapons cache used by coalition forces, killing dozens of Emirati and Yemeni soldiers, and destroying a number of Apache helicopters and armed vehicles, Al Jazeera English reported.
Officials announced they would conduct an investigation into the cause of the incident, and offered condolences to the families of the victims Friday.
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The UAE has been fighting alongside Saudi and other Arab forces since March in an attempt to restore Yemen’s exiled government, which was driven out of the capital in September. The forces have launched an intense campaign against Houthi fighters, who are believed to be backed by Iran, in an attempt to drive them from much of the territory they now control. In recent days, the forces have increasingly been engaged in ground operations.
Although the exiled government has taken back a number of key areas with support from the mostly Arab coalition in recent months, rebels remained in control in much of the country.
The United Nations has said fighting in Yemen has killed more than 3,600 people since late March, estimating that about half of that number were civilians. Human rights groups have accused both government forces and Houthi rebels of committing war crimes and putting civilian lives at risk, and have called on the warring sides to agree to a long-term humanitarian ceasefire.