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Al-Qaeda has acquired sophisticated surface-to-air missiles, the Independent reports. The weapons was then used to shoot down down an Emirati fighter jet in Yemen.
A United Arab Emirate (UAE) air force Mirage jet crashed into a mountain outside of the port city of Aden on 14 March. According to authorities, the crash was “the result of a technical malfunction.” However, this claim is disputed by several sources claiming the “jet was shot down with Russian munitions,” writes Bill Law for the Independent.
The UAE has been involved in a year-long war against the Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen as part of a Saudi-led coalition. Al-Qaeda is also a major side in the conflict, and its regional affiliate, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has been trying to consolidate its power and control over Yemen during the war.
Locals reported that during the incident they saw the now-downed jet attacking AQAP positions, along with Apache helicopters. Some 300 jihadist fighters were under attack when the jet was brought down, according to security sources.
The missile was reportedly a Russian-made SA-7 “Strela” missile, according to a source in Yemen who spoke with the Independent on condition of anonymity. The Strela is a shoulder-held heat-seeking missile with a “kill zone” range between 15 and 1,500 metres in altitude. This suggests the Mirage was engaged a low-altitude strafing run on AQAP positions at the time.
The incident raises concerns that other jihadist groups in the region have also acquired advanced weaponry that could jeopardise the safety and viability of counter-terrorism missions.