UAE building military base in Bab al-Mandeb: Report

TEHRAN, May 25 (MNA) – Accessing satellite images, news sources reported that the UAE is currently building an airbase on the Yemeni island of Mayun.

 A mysterious airbase is being built on a volcanic island off Yemen that sits in one of the world’s crucial maritime chokepoints for both energy shipments and commercial cargo, AP reported.

While no country has claimed the Mayun Island air base in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, shipping traffic associated with a prior attempt to build a massive runway across the 5.6-kilometer (3.5 mile)-long island years ago links back to the United Arab Emirates.

Officials in Yemen’s internationally recognized government now say the Emiratis are behind this latest effort as well, even though the UAE announced in 2019 it was withdrawing its troops from a Saudi-led military campaign.

“This does seem to be a longer-term strategic aim to establish a relatively permanent presence,” said Jeremy Binnie, the Mideast editor at the open-source intelligence company Janes who has followed construction on Mayun for years. It’s “possibly not just about the Yemen war and you’ve got to see the shipping situation as fairly key there.”

Emirati officials in Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s Embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment.

UAE building military base in Bab al-Mandeb: Report

Satellite images from Planet Labs Inc. obtained by The Associated Press showed dump trucks and graders building a 1.85 kilometer (6,070-foot) runway on the island on April 11. By May 18, that work appeared complete, with three hangars constructed on the tarmac just south of the runway.

A runway of that length can accommodate attack, surveillance and transport aircraft. An earlier effort begun toward the end of 2016 and later abandoned had workers try to build an even-larger runway over 3 kilometers (9,800 feet) long, which would allow for the heaviest bombers.

Military officials with Yemen’s ousted government, which the Saudi-led coalition has backed since 2015, say the UAE is building the runway. 

The officials, speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity as they didn’t have the authorization to brief journalists, say Emirati ships transported military weapons, equipment and troops to Mayun Island in recent weeks.

The military officials said recent tension between the UAE and Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi came in part from an Emirati demand for his government to sign a 20-year lease agreement for Mayun. 

The report comes as Yemeni sources have previously reported that the UAE is trying to seize the island of Socotra, southern Yemen.

According to these sources, the UAE has, in general, taken control of the island of Socotra, and enters its military cargos to the island's port without any protest and has even taken complete control of the island's airspace.

ZZ/FNA14000304000576/PR

News Code 173936

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