A drone attack on a Yemeni government base by the rebel Houthi movement has reportedly killed six soldiers. The drone exploded above a podium at al-Anad base, in the southern province of Lahj, where high-ranking officers and officials were watching a parade.

Medics said army deputy chief of staff Gen Saleh al-Zindani and Lahj governor Ahmed al-Turki were among those hurt.

A Houthi-run TV channel said the rebels had targeted personnel from the Saudi-led coalition backing the government.

The attack threatens to derail UN peace efforts, which last month saw both sides agree to a ceasefire around the lifeline Red Sea port of Hudaydah, which is crucial to the delivery of aid supplies.

A Houthi military source told Al-Masirah TV that Thursday’s attack targeted “invaders” – an apparent reference to coalition personnel – and “mercenaries” at al-Anad, which which is about 60km (40 miles) north of the second city of Aden.

It was carried out after “careful monitoring of gatherings and movements” at the base, he added.

Video footage of the incident showed the drone approaching the parade ground rapidly and at low altitude before exploding above the covered VIP podium.

“It was a very strong explosion and we could feel the pressure,” local journalist Nabil al-Qaiti, who was at the parade, told the Associated Press. “The drone was packed with explosives,” he added.

Medics at the Ibn Khaldoun hospital in the nearby city of Houta told AFP news agency that six soldiers were killed and 12 people were injured in the attack. They said the wounded include Gen Zindani, Mr Turki, intelligence chief Brig-Gen Mohammed Saleh Tamah, and senior army commander Fadel Hasan. Chief of staff Gen Abdullah al-Nakhi was also at the base when the drone struck, but there are conflicting reports about whether he was hurt. It was not immediately clear if any coalition military officials were present.

Later, Houthi military spokesman Gen Yehia Sari announced that a new kind of drone had been used. The Qasef-2K, he added, was designed to blow up about 20m (65ft) off the ground, sending shrapnel towards a target. Saudi-owned TV channels described the drone as “Iranian made”. Iran has denied supplying weapons to the rebels. But a UN panel of experts said last year that the Houthis’ Qasef-1 drone was “virtually identical in design, dimensions, and capability” to Iran’s Ababil-T drone.

Iranian designed Ababil II

The Drone

Fragments seen in videos and images of the attack, as well as the distinctive shape of the drone seen in videos, indicate that it is from the Iranian designed Ababil II family. A version of the Ababil II, the Ababil T, has been used the Houthis under the name Qasef 1.

Image 6: Comparison of a captured Ababil T (top, source), and stills from BBC video (bottom, source)

An engine recovered after the attack appears to be a DLE 111 petrol engine, the same kind found by Conflict Armament Research (CAR) in the Ababil T.

Image 7: Engine comparison (source, and source)

Other fragments also appeared to fit the front canard and rear wings of an Ababil T.

Image 8: Rear wing comparison. Note that the aileron is not present in the top image (top source, bottom source)

Image 9: Front canard comparison (top source, bottom source)

The Houthis have consistently claimed that the Qasef 1 is among their several domestically designed and manufactured drones, but a thorough investigation by CAR indicated that these drones are in fact likely smuggled into Yemen from Iran. The Houthis have also claimed to have developed a manufacturing base and to have started producing these drones within Yemen, which should certainly be regarded as a possibility.

The use of a Qasef 1/Ababil T would be relatively consistent with claims made by the Houthis after the attack, although they stated a “Qasef 2K” had been used. It is not currently known how a Qasef 2K differs from a Qasef 1.

Ababil T drones are not particularly advanced UAVs, coming from a family of drones used as targets for anti-aircraft practice. Although they have been armed with explosives and used to attack targets at range, they still have very limited capability compared to more modern drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper or even the Chinese Wing Loong. The Houthis have previously deployed their Ababil T’s using GPS to guide them to pre-set coordinates under control of an autopilot, a simple technique that can be applied to the most basic of drones.


This event is a major demonstration of Houthi capabilities. Although Ababil T’s have reportedly been used to attack Saudi Arabian Patriot missile radar arrays, this event is rather more complex. While radar arrays are relatively static, the guests at this parade would have been mobile, only sitting at the dais for a limited window of time.

The Houthis would have had to know where and when this parade was going to happen, and know exactly when to launch a single drone in order to hit the dais when it was full of high-value targets. Considering the extraordinary nature of this attack, it also seems likely they knew that several high-ranking officers would be present.

The exact weapon carried by the drone is unknown, but the number of casualties indicates it was effective. A media report claimed that the drone was intended to detonate 20 meters above the target. If the drone was armed with some kind of directional anti-personnel munition similar to a claymore mine then this height would maximise the lethal radius of the munition. However, it should be noted that no fragments of the exact munition appear to have been recovered at the time of writing.

Sources:  Bellingcat;  BBC

UAV DACH: Beitrag im Original auf https://www.uasvision.com/2019/01/11/houthi-drone-kills-6-at-yemen-military-parade/, mit freundlicher Genehmigung von UAS Vision automatisch importiert, Der Beitrag gibt nicht unbedingt die Meinung oder Position des UAV DACH e.V. wieder. Das Original ist in englischer Sprache.