DAKAR (Reuters) - Senegal will send 2,100 troops to Saudi Arabia as part of an international coalition combating Houthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen, the West African nation’s foreign minister said on Monday.
Senegalese President Macky Sall said, after returning from a visit to Saudi Arabia last month, he was considering a request to deploy troops in the Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthi, a Shi’ite Muslim group allied to Iran.
Saudi Arabia - the world’s top oil exporter and the Sunni Muslim regional rival of Iran - said Houthi forces posed a threat to its security after they captured Yemen’s capital and began advancing across the country in September.
“The international coalition is aiming to protect and secure the holy sites of Islam, Medina and Mecca,” Senegalese Foreign Minister Mankeur Ndiaye told parliament.
“The president...has decided to respond favourably to this request by deploying a contingent of 2,100 men in the holy land of Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The coalition, which wants to restore Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, includes eight other Arab states and is receiving logistical support from the United States, Britain and France.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said in a statement on Monday the alliance was considering halting airstrikes in specific areas in Yemen to allow in humanitarian supplies.
The United Nations says the humanitarian situation in Yemen has grown desperate after weeks of bombardment.
Senegal deployed troops to Saudi Arabia as part of the U.S.-led alliance during the Gulf War against Iraq, when 92 of its soldiers were killed in the crash of a Saudi transport plane in 1991.
Reporting by Diadie Ba; Writing by Daniel Flynn; editing by Ralph Boulton