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Yemen: Saudi-led coalition admits Houthi missile video was 'erroneous'

Critics pointed out the footage used in the allegation was identical to that in a film about the 2003 US invasion of Iraq
Footage used in a Saudi coalition press conference on 8 January 2022 alleging that the Houthis have a 'ballistic missile' in Hodeidah (Screengrab/Al Saudiya YouTube channel)

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has admitted that a video used to accuse the Houthi movement of developing ballistic missiles in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah was "erroneously published". 

Turki al-Maliki, the official spokesperson for the coalition, had made the claim at a news conference on Saturday, when he played a two-second clip of two large warheads which he said were "in a specific location, inside Hodeidah port". 

However, he was widely mocked after activists and journalists flagged that the exact location of the clip in question appeared to be in Baghdad, and the footage taken on 10 April 2003.

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The clip was identical to footage at the 1 hour 10 minute mark of the 2009 film Severe Clear, a documentary based on a US marine's video diary of the 21-day advance on Baghdad during the US invasion.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Maliki said the footage had been "erroneously passed from a source," adding "we are dealing in an area of operations that has a lot of sources, and this comes within the marginal error of dealing with sources".

"We don't find it awkward if anything needs to be corrected, it is a moral obligation to have a correction," he said.

"The fact that this film is from an erroneous source does not mean that Houthi militias are not using and militarising ports, and it cannot be said that the Houthis do not use civilians for protection purposes… Houthi violations are clear to all."

'What a joke'

Following Maliki's remarks on Saturday, which were broadcast on the Saudi state-run Al Saudiya channel and shared to its YouTube channel, Yahya Saree, a Houthi spokesperson, accused the coalition of “scandal” and “bankruptcy” for using footage from a US film.

“This is the aggression which from the start is filled with lies and deception and attempts to cover their eyes with sand, but the string of lies is short," he said

Saudi activist Lina al-Hathloul tweeted: “I wonder how these people are in power - what a joke”.

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Khalid al-Jabri, the son of dissident former Saudi intelligence operative Saad al-Jabri, said: “This kind of top-down military buffoonery is exactly why Saudi Arabia is stuck in a seven-year quagmire in Yemen. 

"This war will never end when intel is fabricated from an Iraq invasion documentary. 

“What’s next? Show clips from Saving Private Ryan and claim the war is won/over?”

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen’s civil war in March 2015, starting a now seven-year conflict with the Houthis on behalf of the internationally recognised Yemeni government. The coalition backs Yemeni ground forces with air strikes and a blockade, both criticised by human rights defenders.

A UN Development Programme report in November said the war would have claimed 377,000 lives by the end of 2021, through both direct and indirect impacts.