A view shows Hadibu city on the capital island of Socotra, Yemen November 21, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi
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Military transport planes from the United Arab Emirates landed on the sleepy Yemeni island of Socotra last week, unloading tanks and troops as part of the Gulf Arab state's drive to extend its influence over a strategic waterway flanked by war zones. The UAE, with a population of less than 10 million but the Arab world's second-largest economy thanks to oil, is deploying its soldiers and cash to create a web of bases and armed allies in Yemen and Somalia as a bulwark against Islamist extremists and Iranian influence, according to diplomats as well as Yemeni and Somali officials.But backing groups at loggerheads with their national governments threatens to bog down the United Arab Emirates in the seemingly endless conflicts of two of the world's poorest countries.The Yemeni government accused the UAE of seizing the island's ports and airport.The UAE has hired senior foreign military officers to modernize its army, including Australia's former top special forces Gen. Mike Hindmarsh, who reports to Abu Dhabi's powerful Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.Hindmarsh oversees the Presidential Guard, the unit tasked with directing the UAE's campaign in Yemen.
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