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Another American MQ-9 Reaper drone crashes in Yemen, images reportedly show

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Another U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone crashed in Yemen, online images reportedly showed Wednesday, as Houthi rebels in Yemen continued attacks on shipping around the Red Sea over the war between Israel and Hamas.

It was not immediately clear what brought down the drone, but the US military’s Central Command acknowledged seeing “reports” of the plane being shot down in a desert area of ​​Yemen’s central Marib province. It was possibly the third downturn this month alone.

Images published online and analyzed by The Associated Press showed the MQ-9 on its belly in the arid desert, its tail disconnected from the rest of its body. At least one hatch of the drone appeared to have opened after it landed there, although the drone remained largely intact without any apparent explosion damage. One image contained Wednesday’s date. Remarkably, the drone did not appear to bear any markings.

Authorities in Marib, which is still controlled by allies of Yemen’s exiled government, did not immediately recognize the drone. This also applied to the Houthis, who shot down MQ-9 drones earlier in the war.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, told the AP that “the U.S. Air Force has not lost any aircraft operating within the U.S. Central Command area of ​​responsibility.” The official declined to elaborate.

Other US paramilitary forces have flown the drone in Yemen.

Marib is located 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Sanaa, on the edge of the Arabian Peninsula’s Empty Quarter Desert, at the foot of the Sarawat Mountains that run along the Red Sea. US drones have previously been downed in the province, partly because the region remains crucial to the outcome of the years-long war in Yemen.

Since Yemen’s civil war began in 2014, when the Houthis seized most of the country’s north and the capital Sanaa, the US military has lost at least five drones to the rebels. This month alone, there have been two other suspected Reaper shootings that the US military has not confirmed.

Reapers cost about $30 million each. They can fly at altitudes up to 50,000 feet (about 15,000 meters) and have an endurance of up to 24 hours before needing to land.

The Houthis have stepped up attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in recent months and are demanding that Israel end the war in Gaza, which has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians there. The war began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostage.

The Houthis have carried out more than 50 attacks on shipping since November, seizing one ship and sinking another, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration.

Shipping through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden has decreased due to the threat.

On Wednesday, Houthi military spokesman Brig. General Yahya Saree acknowledged that the rebels had attacked the bulk carrier Laax on Tuesday. Saree also claimed a number of other attacks on ships that have not reported attacks, without providing any evidence to support his claim. Saree has exaggerated Houthi attacks in the past.

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