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Britain secretly training Saudi air force: Report

17 October 2018 8:14

 

Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) has been training Saudi Arabian air force crew over the past four years as part of a secret deal, a report says. 

The Daily Mail can disclose that 111 RAF personnel have been seconded to BAE Systems to train Royal Saudi Air Force aircrew and provide engineering support, including 21 sent during the first five months of this year.

In 2015, 34 RAF personnel were sent there, with 30 the following year and 26 in 2017, the report added.

“These personnel were all seconded to BAE Systems to provide training support to Royal Saudi Air Force aircrew and routine aircraft engineering support,” British defense minister Guto Bebb said in a written statement.

BAE sources, however, have denied any involve involvement in military operations.

In addition, high-ranking British military advisers are in their control rooms to assist the Saudi-led coalition, which has bombing Yemen since 2015, killing thousands of civilians.

Some UK officers have also been sharing targeting techniques for several years and, according to Riyadh, they have access to the “target list.”

According to a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, “All UK military personnel in Saudi Arabia are under UK command and control.

“We have an ongoing and wide- ranging defense engagement relationship with Saudi Arabia, which has included the provision of training courses and advice and guidance.”

In March this year Britain and Saudi Arabia signed a controversial aid agreement worth £100 million.

London is already the target of strong criticism from rights groups for its multibillion-pound arms sales to Saudi Arabia, during the kingdom’s deadly war on Yemen.

The new revelation comes amid international condemnation over the alleged murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey earlier this month.

Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and a US resident, disappeared on October 2 after visiting the consulate. Turkish authorities believe he was tortured and killed inside the building by a team of Saudi operatives who removed his dismembered body.

On Tuesday, Tory MP Crispin Blunt said the UK Government should reconsider its relations with the Saudis following the disappearance of Khashoggi.

“Nothing should be off the table given how serious this is,” the former chairman of the foreign affairs select committee said.

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