A Saudi Arabian Blackhawk helicopter crashed during military operations in Yemen on Tuesday killing 12 personnel on board. Saudi sources are stating that the cause of the crash was friendly fire.

The four officers and eight non-commissioned officers were killed while on a mission to try to force out the dominant Houthi group and restore President Abd-Rabu Mansour Hadi to power.

It was the largest loss of life involving Saudi forces since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen’s war in 2015.

The official Saudi news agency SPA quoted a statement from the Saudi-led coalition as saying the Black Hawk came down in Marib province, east of the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa.

“As a result, four officers and eight non-commissioned officers from the Saudi armed forces were martyred,” it said, adding the possible cause of the crash was under investigation.

But the Yemeni defense ministry’s 26 September news website quoted an officer in Yemen’s military high command as saying the helicopter was shot down 5 km (3 miles) from its landing spot because of “a technical fault that caused a misreading of the air defense system, which resulted in the destruction of the plane before it landed”.

The Houthi-run Saba news agency said the helicopter crashed in an area known as al-Tadaween, northeast of the Marib provincial capital, and that 13 officers and soldiers had died.

The Saudi-led coalition has recently made gains against the Houthis in western Yemen but fighting on other fronts, including Marib, has been static, with little ground changing hands.

The Houthis seized much of northern Yemen including Sanaa in a series of lightning military operations that began in 2014, eventually forcing Hadi to flee.

The apparent fratricide was reportedly committed by forces from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The coalition forces accuse Iran of trying to use the Houthis to expand its influence in Yemen, something the Iranians are denying.

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Photo courtesy of Associated Press