The Associated Press has reported that the United Arab Emirates is dismantling parts of a military base it runs in the East African nation of Eritrea.
The UAE built a port and expanded an airstrip in Assab beginning in September 2015, using the facility as a base to ferry heavy weaponry and Sudanese troops into Yemen.
The UAE reportedly poured millions of dollars into improving the facility at Assab, only some 70 kilometers from Yemen. It dredged a port and improved the dusty airstrip’s roughly 3,500-meter runway to allow for heavy support aircraft.
It also built barracks, aircraft canopies and fencing across the 9 square-kilometer facility initially built in the 1930s by colonial Italy.
The Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli has alleged the UAE has also flown weapons through Assab on its way there. UN experts have accused the UAE, among other nations, of funneling weapons into Libya amid its civil war. The Emiratis are reported to support the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) and the counter-government in Tobruk in their fight against the GNA.
Over time, the UAE stationed Leclerc battle tanks, G6 self-propelled howitzers and BMP-3 amphibious fighting vehicles at the airport, according to United Nations experts. Those types of heavy weapons have been seen on Yemeni battlefields. Attack helicopters, drones and other aircraft have also been seen on its runways.
Barracks on the base have been used to house Emirati and Yemeni mercenary troops, as well as Sudanese forces filmed disembarking in Yemen’s port city of Aden. Records show the ship carrying them, the SWIFT-1, traveled back and forth to Assab.
The base also aided wounded soldiers by housing “one of the best field surgical hospitals anywhere in the Middle East,” said Michael Knights, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near-East Policy who has studied the Assab base.
In early January of this year, a photo released to the press showed what appears to be vehicles and other equipment being loaded onto a waiting cargo ship. By February 5, the ship and that equipment were gone.
Recent footage however, shows what seems to be a gradual deconstruction and removal of the UAE military base. The break-up of the drone hangars come after rebels in Ethiopia’s Tigray region in November alleged that Emirati drones from Assab had been used against their positions. The UAE has so far not commented on the allegation.