Posted on March 27, 2019
A minister has pledged to investigate allegations of British special forces’ involvement in “gun battles” and fighting on the same side as groups using child soldiers in Yemen. The Foreign Office’s Mark Field MP said he was keen to “get to the bottom” of the allegations written in a Mail on Sunday article.
The newspaper reported that at least five special forces commandos were wounded as part of a mission to support the coalition against Houthi rebels. Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry also warned that UK personnel risk being “witnesses to war crimes” if the report was correct in saying they have been fighting on the same side as militia which use child soldiers.
Mr Field said he would not comment on UK special forces, in line with Government policy. However, he suggested the allegations linked to child soldiers would be “investigated as a matter of urgency”. Mr Field was standing in to answer the question after Alistair Burt resigned as Middle East Minister on Monday over Brexit. Thousands of people have been killed in Yemen’s four-year civil war. Iran-backed Houthi rebels have been fighting against a coalition led by Saudi Arabia in support of the internationally recognised government of Yemen.
Asking if the reports were accurate, Ms Thornberry said British forces are being put in “harm’s way” in trying to deliver a military solution to the civil war. Ms Thornberry then referred to the “especially disturbing allegation” linked to child soldiers. She said: “Is that in any way true? Because if it is, then it’d confirm our forces are not just a party to the conflict but witnesses to war crimes.”
Mr Field said the UK still maintained it was “not a party” of the conflict, stating they are supportive of Saudi Arabia. He added Ms Thornberry will receive a written response, liaising with the Ministry of Defence about the “issue of other engagement or involvement of British personnel in Yemen”.