By P Prem Kumar
Malaysia has denied its alleged involvement in a 12-country coalition led by Saudi Arabia to fight against militants in Yemen, despite the presence of its forces in the country.
An unnamed Malaysian defence ministry official told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday that the military force is solely in Yemen to assist in the evacuation of stranded Malaysian students, and those from other countries.
"The Saudi Gazette report is false," he said. "The troops were only there to assist in humanitarian and evacuation missions, as there were still Malaysian students there."
The official requested anonymity, as he is not authorized to speak to media.
Gen. Tan Sri Dr Zulkefli Mohd Zin had said in a statement Monday that two Royal Malaysian Air Force 130 Transport Aircraft would be positioned at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) at Prince Sultan Air Base (PSAB) in Riyadh to facilitate the evacuation.
"As the Malaysian Chief of Defence Force, I would like to inform that the sole mission of our troops in Saudi Arabia is to facilitate the safe and smooth evacuation of the remaining Malaysian citizens in Yemen," he added.
On Sunday, the Saudi state news agency reported that Malaysian troops had arrived in Saudi Arabia to join the Saudi-led coalition against the Shiite Houthi group.
According to the agency, Malaysia became the 12th country to join the coalition, a week after Senegal announced that 2,000 of its troops would join the coalition.
Fractious Yemen has remained in turmoil since last September, when the Houthis overran capital Sanaa, from which they sought to extend their influence to other parts of the country.
President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi fled to Riyadh in late March after Houthi forces attacked his residence in Yemen's southern port city of Aden.
Malaysian Gen. Zin said that Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners' focus has now shifted from "Operation Decisive Storm to Operation Renewal of Hope."
"It is our hope that the proposed cease-fire, which will begin on Tuesday, remains," he said.
The ceasefire - to allow deliveries of humanitarian aid - is due to start at 23:00 (2000GMT).Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.