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Press Release: End Use of Mercenaries in Yemen

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Photo credit: EPA 

Tactics Institute for Security and Counter Terrorism calls for the end to the use of mercenary soldiers in the ongoing conflict in Yemen.

A 2018 BuzzFeed News exclusive revealed that the United Arab Emirates hired American mercenaries to carry out assassinations of Yemeni leaders it deemed “terrorists” in 2015. This for-profit style of warfare is a dangerous development as it enables well-connected individuals to effectively raise armies on behalf of small but wealthy states, whose own populations are not inclined to fight for their leaders.

Yemen has been in the grip of a humanitarian crisis since 2015 when an Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, launched a military campaign against the Houthis, hoping to restore the previous government. That same year, the Spear Operation Group, founded by Hungarian-Israeli security contractor Abraham Golan, carried out assassinations against clerics and Islamist political figures inside Yemen on behelf of the UAE.

Those targeted included a local leader of al-Islah, a political party whose members include Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkul Karman.

The hiring of US special forces for a targeted assassination programme reflects an approach similar to that employed by Israel in the Gaza Strip, which Golan claimed in his interview with Buzz Feed is a more effective method of warfare than traditional bombing campaigns.

The use of mercenary special forces widens international involvement in Yemen, with the United Kingdom and France facing criticism for selling arms to the Arab coalition. It is civilians who have paid the heaviest price for the ongoing conflict, with widespread malnutrition and outbreaks of entirely preventable diseases such as cholera.

Such mercenary operations further blur the lines of who is fighting in Yemen and to what ends. It is also believed to be a violation of the War Crimes Act of 1996.

Yemen is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with some estimates suggesting the death toll from the conflict could reach a quarter of a million in 2020. Tactics Institute believes only a ceasefire and political solution will resolve the conflict. As well as regional powers seeking to gain advantage at the expense of the Yemeni population, we now see profit-driven mercenaries willing to undermine Yemen’s political system to pursue their goals. Yemen is a humanitarian disaster and all sides must call a halt to the bloody pursuit of narrow self-interest. This includes regional powers; the US; French and British arms supplies and the predatory deployment of special forces.

Tactics Institute for Security and Counter Terrorism is an independent, non-partisan, think tank. Tactics researches terrorism to identify its causes and best possible remedies, always bearing in mind the protection of individual liberties and the human rights of all those affected.


For more information please contact Tactics Institute for Security and Counter Terrorism at