Yemen Rebels Say They Shot Down Morroccan F-16


 Yemen's Shiite Huthi rebels said on Monday they shot down a warplane of the Saudi-led coalition, shortly after Morocco reported one of its fighter jets missing on a sortie.

"The air defense of the tribes shot down a warplane over Wadi Nushur, in Saada," the rebels' northern stronghold, Huthi news channel Al-Masirah said, broadcasting images of tribesmen celebrating around the wreckage of a plane.

The television said it was an F-16 jet while the footage showed a Moroccan flag on a broken rudder lying on a rocky patch.

Morocco said contact was lost with the fighter and its pilot at 6 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Sunday, the official MAP news agency reported, citing an armed forces statement.

"A second plane which was flying in formation was not able to see whether the pilot ejected," it added.

The Saudi Press Agency cited a coalition source as saying contact with the Moroccan jet was lost at 10:30 p.m. Sunday.

"This was while it was returning from a scheduled bombing mission against the Huthi militias. Search efforts were still underway up until the time this statement was released" late Monday, SPA said.

A Saudi official earlier told AFP: "It is definitely inside Yemen and it is a single pilot on board".

This was the second reported incident involving a coalition jet since a Saudi-led Arab coalition began bombing the Iran-backed Huthis in Yemen on March 26.

The day after operations began, the US military said it rescued two Saudi pilots who ejected from their F-15 warplane off Yemen's coast.

According to Moroccan press reports, the kingdom deployed a squadron of six F-16s for Yemen operations.

Riyadh is a close ally of Rabat and a major donor.

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