News ID: 133231
Published: 0658 GMT December 19, 2015

UAE sending 'Colombian mercenaries' to Yemen

UAE sending 'Colombian mercenaries' to Yemen

The United Arab Emirates secretly sent some 300 Colombian mercenaries to fight for it in Yemen, paying handsomely to recruit a private army of well-trained, battle-hardened South American soldiers.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the Colombians' experience fighting leftist guerrillas and drug traffickers in their home country made them attractive recruits for the UAE, whose relatively inexperienced army is part of forces involved in Saudi Arabia's military aggression against Yemen.

"Colombian soldiers are highly prized for their training in fighting guerrillas," one source, a Colombian former army officer, said.

"Colombians have so many years of experience in war that they can take it."

The presence of Colombian troops in Yemen's bloody conflict further complicates the war which has left more than 7,500 dead and 28,000 wounded, many of them civilians, according to the United Nations.

Colombian soldiers are frequently recruited by international private security firms for jobs in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan.

The source, a 48-year-old man who left the army in the late 1990s, was himself formerly employed by Blackwater, the controversial US company now known as Academi that was contracted by the Pentagon to provide military and security services in Iraq.

He said that from around 2010 the UAE began recruiting Colombians for a private army it was forming at a base in the middle of the desert called Zayed Military City.

Prized as special forces commanders or Blackhawk helicopter pilots, the Colombians are paid around $3,300 a month – five times less than equivalent American contractors, but a small fortune by Colombian standards, he said.

Their deployment came after 30 Emirati soldiers were killed in Yemen in a missile attack by Yemen fighters known as Houthis.



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