Saudi officers killed in helicopter crash in Yemen


U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is in Saudi Arabia, his first stop on a sweeping tour across the Middle East and the Horn of Africa to discuss America's role in regional security.

The death toll was one of the largest in a single incident involving Saudi forces since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen's war in 2015 in support of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's internationally recognised government in its fight against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The U war has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 civilians and led to the displacement of some 3 million Yemenis. Yemen is now divided between Hadi's government and the Houthi rebels.

It is necessary to end the "firing of missiles provided by Iran against Saudi Arabia" as well as "the death of innocent people in Yemen", Mattis said.

"Our aim is that this crisis can be handed to a team of negotiators under the aegis of the United Nations that can try to find a political solution as quickly as possible", he said as he flew to Riyadh.

"The Egyptian military is now taking part with naval and aerial forces but at that time we were talking about around 30 to 40 thousand ground troops", the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition went on to say. But he said he was looking to deepen and broaden the relationship between the two countries on the trip.

During the trip, Mattis will meet with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, as well as the defense minister, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud, and the interior minister, deputy crown prince Mohammed Bin Nayef.

Meantime, an informed military source said that the Yemeni army and popular forces targeted the gathering centers of the Saudi-backed militias in al-Mukha region, killing at least 15 pro-Hadi militants, including several senior commanders.

Saudi Arabia will start reviewing a number of multi-billion-dollar infrastructure and development project-remnants from a better past when crude oil prices were in three-digit territory. Also on his week-long itinerary is a visit to Israel.

Administration officials said the USA strategy in Syria - to defeat Islamic State while still calling for the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - is unchanged, a message Mattis is expected to reinforce.

On Monday U.S. Vice President Mike Pence put North Korea on notice, warning that recent U.S. strikes in Syria and Afghanistan showed that the Trump administration's resolve should not be tested.