The clashes, which involved an Apache helicopter in support of the Saudi military convoy, lasted for several hours
Conflicting narratives emerge over clashes between Saudi military, tribal gunmen on Yemen-Oman border
Armed clashes broke out between Saudi forces and tribal gunmen near Shehn land port linking Yemen and Oman on Monday evening, as the groups compete for influence in Al-Mahra governorate in eastern Yemen.
The clashes, which involved an Apache helicopter in support of the Saudi military convoy, lasted for several hours.
Conflicting narratives have emerged about other details of the fighting.
Al-Mahra’s local authority accused the tribal gunmen of an armed ambush on the Saudi forces, which are stationed in the area under the pretext of supporting internationally recognized government forces combatting smuggling there. The Saudi forces were carrying out a routine inspection of the Shehn border crossing’s electronic inspection device and assessing the security situation at the land port, according to the local authority’s Al-Mahra Information Center.
“The ambush was a serious violation of Yemeni law and an attempt to cause chaos in Al-Mahra, disrupt security and peace," an official in the local authority said.
An official on the organizing committee of the peaceful sit-in of the people of Al-Mahra, an Oman-backed group opposing the Saudi military presence in Yemen's easternmost governorate, said the clashes started because the Saudi forces were obstructing the movement of locals through the port. The official told Almasdar Online that the Saudi forces, accompanied by the Mahra local authority, opened fire first, and that triggered the tribesmen to cut off troop reinforcements heading to the port.
The committee called the Saudi attacks on the tribesmen and citizens of the Fujit area of Shehn district “criminal.”
A statement from the committee, a copy of which was viewed by Almasdar Online, described the Saudi forces’ actions at the port as an attempt to restrict the movement of citizens and treat the port as their military base. The sit-in group also called on all parties to resist the Saudi occupation and expel it, emphasizing dialogue between Yemenis without outside interference, and called on the Yemeni government to step up its responsibilities.
Al-Mahra has been the scene of sporadic tensions between Saudi forces and the local authority on the one hand, and on the other a rejection of the Saudi military presence by tribal groups led by Sheikh Ali Salem Al-Harizi, the governorate’s former deputy governor.
Oman has raised concerns about Saudi military forces present at Al-Mahrah’s Al-Ghaydah airport and other sites along Yemen's coasts, ostensibly in support of Yemeni forces to combat smuggling. Several reports by the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen have identified Yemen’s border with Oman as a key smuggling route for Iranian weapons reaching the Houthis.