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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) – Saudi Arabia’s assistant defense minister said Saturday that the bodies of 20 of the 26 soldiers reported missing were found on the border, raising the toll for the fight against Yemen’s Shiite rebels to 133.
Prince Khaled bin Sultan told reporters that the bodies were found after “liberating” areas around Dokhan mountain, a strategic high point in the rugged border region.
He said six soldiers are still missing.
On Thursday, Saudi Arabia said its army lost 113 troops including Lt. Col. Saeed Matuq al-Omari, a paratrooper and a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War.
Saudi forces launched a sweeping offensive against the rebels after they crossed the border on Nov. 5, killing two Saudi border guards.
A Saudi general earlier described the war with the poorly armed Yemeni Hawthi rebels, as “close to a guerrilla war.”
The rise in the toll underscores the ferocity of the fighting with the Yemeni rebels, who have been battling their own government since 2004 over neglect and discrimination.
The rebels have gained a reputation for being cunning adversaries, taking full advantage of the rugged mountainous terrain of their homes in northern Yemen.
The Saudis have been relying on artillery and air power to defeat the rebels without risking manpower, but the casualties mostly come when ground forces attempt to move into areas that were shelled.