DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen on Thursday acknowledged having equipment on an island in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait where a mysterious air base is now under construction.
However, the coalition’s statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency did not name who was building the facility across the volcanic island of Mayun, the subject of recent reporting by The Associated Press.
The statement said the equipment, which it did not identify, helps the coalition back Yemen’s internationally recognized government against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who now hold the country’s capital, Sanaa.
The statement said the United Arab Emirates, which remains a coalition member after largely withdrawing from the war in 2019, was “providing air support in defense” of the Yemeni city of Marib, the target of an ongoing Houthi offensive. The statement called any claim of Emirati troops on Mayun “baseless and unfounded.”
The AP reporting, based in part on satellite photos of the island, showed the construction of a 1.85 kilometer (6,070-foot) runway on the island. Shipping data links the Emirates to an earlier, abandoned effort to build a runway there.
Military officials with Yemen’s internationally recognized government told the AP that Emirati ships transported military weapons, equipment and troops to Mayun Island in recent weeks for this latest construction. The AP reports did not mention any Emirati troop presence on the island.
The Saudi statement comes after rising anger from Yemeni officials over the air base being built on Mayun. The UAE has not responded to repeated requests for comment.