SENEGAL on Monday said it would send 2,100 soldiers to Saudi Arabia to join Riyadh’s military coalition battling rebels in Yemen, at the request of Saudi King Salman.
Foreign Minister Mankeur Ndiaye made the announcement in a speech to the National Assembly, according to a copy of the remarks obtained by news wire AFP.
He did not specify when the troops would be deployed, and officials did not immediately provide further details.
Ndiaye said Riyadh originally asked Dakar to contribute to the Saudi-led coalition at the beginning of April.
Senegalese President Micky Sall “decided to respond favourably to this request by deploying a contingent of 2,100 men to the holy land of Saudi Arabia”.
“The terms and other necessary arrangements for the deployment were made between the chiefs of the armed forces of the two countries,” the foreign minister said.
The Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes against Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies on March 26 after they seized control of large parts of the country and advanced on the main southern city of Aden, where President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi had taken refuge.
Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia and the Huthis—who have joined forces with army units loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh—have refused to concede territory or down arms despite international pressure.
According to Ndiaye, previous Senegalese military deployments to the Middle East have included serving as part of the international coalition that liberated Kuwait following Iraq’s invasion of the country in 1990.
Since independence from France in 1960, the country has deployed nearly 25,000 soldiers in more than 20 peacekeeping operations, he said.
Senegal is 94% Muslim, mainly Sunni. In March Sudan, Egypt, and Morocco joined the burgeoning coalition of 10 Sunni- ruled nations in the air strikes.
Yemen has emerged as the latest battleground for Saudi Arabia and Iran in their tussle for regional supremacy. Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, has accused Shiite Iran of fomenting unrest in country.
The two powers have already clashed over Syria and Bahrain, although both are fighting Islamic State extremists in Syria and Iraq.