Saudi Arabia is moving heavy military equipment including artillery to areas near its border with Yemen, US officials said on Tuesday, raising the risk that the Middle East's top oil power will be drawn into the worsening Yemeni conflict.
The buildup follows a southward advance by Iranian-backed Houthi Shi'ite militants who took control of the capital Sanaa in September and seized the central city of Taiz at the weekend as they move closer to the new southern base of US-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The armor and artillery being moved by Saudi Arabia could be used for offensive or defensive purposes, two US government sources said. Two other US officials said the build-up appeared to be defensive.
One US government source described the size of the Saudi buildup on Yemen's border as "significant" and said the Saudis could be preparing air strikes to defend Hadi if the Houthis attack his refuge in the southern seaport of Aden.
Another US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington had acquired intelligence about the Saudi build-up. But there was no immediate word on the precise location near the border or the exact size of the force deployed.