Reports have emerged that at least 450 Latin American mercenaries have secretly been deployed in Yemen by the United Arab Emirates as proxies for its own soldiers.
This is the first time that a foreign army, which comprises of mostly Colombian mercenaries trained privately by UAE, has been dispatched to the conflict-riddled region, where the complex proxy war in the country is being fought by outside forces such as the Saudis on one side and the Iranians on the other.
According to a New York Times report, 450 Latin American troops â€” that comprise of Panamanian, Salvadoran and Chilean soldiers - are now part of the war in Yemen.
Earlier this year, the Saudi forces along with the United States and other gulf countries began a military campaign against the Shia Houthi rebels backed by Iran, after they toppled the Yemeni government and forced the leaders to flee the country's capital - Sana.
While Saudi Arabia has been leading the campaign, countries such as UAE and Bahrain have also been sending in their forces.
As per an estimate by Anadolu Agency, at least 63 Emirati soldiers have died fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen. After facing an increasing number of casualities, UAE is sending in the mercenary forces.
"Mercenaries are an attractive option for rich countries who wish to wage war yet whose citizens may not want to fight," said Sean McFate, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and author of "The Modern Mercenary" told NYT.
Since 2011, UAE has been hiring and training Latin Americans. According to a report in the Spanish weekly - Semana, published in 2011, the oil-rich country planned to enlist 3,000 Colombian soldiers into its army.
The report had said that 842 Colombian soldiers and retired soldiers were being paid "ten times" the salary they were being given by the the Colombian armed forces. UAE later said that the recruitment was being done directly by its armed forces.