Saudi Arabia on Monday mobilised counter-insurgency units on its border with Yemen, official media said, after rebel strikes into the kingdom killed more than 80 people this year.
The decision to activate the four interior ministry regiments “specialising in guerrilla warfare” comes on the eve of a possible ceasefire and United Nations-brokered peace talks in Switzerland Tuesday.
“This is to support the military forces in combat when the situation demands that,” the Saudi Press Agency said, suggesting that the units would be a type of paramilitary force.
“They were also given powers of security forces in seizing, arresting, searching, chasing and shooting according to the legal procedures,” it said.
More than 80 people, most of them soldiers and border guards, have been killed in shelling and cross-border skirmishes since March, when a Saudi-led coalition began air strikes against Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies in Yemen.
The Huthis, whose stronghold is in northern Yemen, are experienced guerrilla fighters, having fought six wars with their country’s government between 2004 and 2010.
Backed by Iran, they over-ran much of Yemen before the coalition intervened to support local forces on behalf of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
The coalition on Monday announced the death of a special forces commander in Yemen, Saudi Colonel Abdullah al-Sahyan, killed in action in Yemen’s southwest.
He is one of the most senior Saudi officers to die in the war.
The United Nations says more than 5,800 people have been killed in Yemen since March, about half of them civilians.