The officials say the kingdom took the decision ostensibly to protect Hadi and his government, but added that it was also made to appease the United Arab Emirates, its top ally, which is hostile to Hadi and opposed to his return. Saudi and UAE are the two major pillars of an Arab coalition battling Shiite Houthis rebels in Yemen under the pretext of restoring Hadi's legitimate government to power. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation.
Child recruitment "is a very important and serious issue and we hope to shine a spotlight on it," said Saud al-Kabli, an official of the Saudi Embassy in Washington. "That is why Saudi Arabia created the rehabilitation project." But the coalition did not allow any contact or interviews with the Rapid Support Forces, the main Sudanese forces fighting in Yemen. It is a paramilitary group drawn primarily from the janjaweed militia that fought for the government in the conflict in Darfur. Instead, the coalition arranged visits to two small camps in Saudi Arabia staffed by a smaller deployment from the formal Sudanese army.
A Saudi-led coalition in Yemen acknowledged Saturday that an air attack last month that killed dozens of people, including children traveling on a bus, was unjustified, and it pledged to hold accountable anyone who contributed to the error. The rare concession came after mounting international pressure, including from allies, to do more to limit civilian casualties in a three-and-a-half-year civil war in Yemen that has killed more than 10,000 people and pushed the already impoverished country to the brink of famine. The Western-backed alliance fighting the Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen had said after the Aug. 9 airstrikes, at a market in Saada Province, that it had been targeting missile launchers that were used to attack southern Saudi Arabia a day earlier. The alliance accused the Houthis of using children as human shields. The Joint Incident Assessment Team, an investigative body set up by the coalition, said on Saturday that the strikes had been based on intelligence indicating that the bus was carrying Houthi leaders, a legitimate military target, but that delays in executing the strike and receiving a no-strike order should be investigated further.