The Senegalese government has said that it will send 2,100 soldiers to Saudi Arabia to join Riyadh’s military coalition battling rebels in Yemen.
Senegal says it at the request of the 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 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 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.
Why is Senegal supporting Saudi Arabia?
Senegal’s declared involvement in a war thousands of miles away from its borders is likely welcome news for the Saudis, who have struggled to convince friendly nations to commit ground troops to any potential operation in Yemen.
Most notably, Saudi overtures to Pakistan, a longtime ally and recipient of considerable Saudi funding, were rebuffed by the Pakistani parliament last month.
“The most obvious potential benefit of a Senegalese military engagement alongside Saudi Arabia would be in the form of closer political and economic ties between the two, and almost certainly direct cash payments from Saudi Arabia to Senegal,” says Andrew Lebovich, a security and political analyst focused on West Africa.
It wasn’t initially clear where the Senegalese forces would be deployed and to what purpose. “The international coalition is aiming to protect and secure the holy sites of Islam, Medina and Mecca,” Foreign Minister Ndiaye told Senegal’s parliament on Monday.