Marine embassy security guards smashed personal weapons with sledgehammers and scattered them before departing Yemen as the U.S. Embassy was being evacuated this week, officials with Marine Corps Headquarters said.
The officials offered new details of the Marines' departure in the wake of differing reports about what had become of personal weapons the troops had to leave behind before departing the country via the airport at Sanaa. A Pentagon spokesman told reporters Wednesday that Marines handed over the weapons to Yemeni officials before boarding commercial aircraft for departure, while staff with the Sanaa airport told the Associated Press that Houthi rebels had seized U.S. Embassy vehicles, some with weapons inside.
A Marine official with knowledge of the movement told Marine Corps Times on Wednesday that all personal and crew-served weapons had been rendered inoperable, but could not address how they had been made so or how they were disposed of before the Marines departed.
"To be clear: No Marine handed a weapon to a Houthi, or had one taken from him," Marine officials said late Wednesday in a statement.
Crew-served weapons, officials said, were destroyed at the embassy before the Marines departed in accordance with an approved destruction plan.
The Marine embassy detachment then proceeded to the airfield at Sanaa with just their personal weapons.
"Upon arrival at the airfield, all personal weapons were rendered inoperable in accordance with advance planning," officials said in the statement. "Specifically, each bolt was removed from its weapons body and rendered inoperable by smashing with sledgehammers. The weapons bodies, minus the bolts, were then separately smashed with sledgehammers. All of these destroyed components were left at the airport — and components were scattered; no usable weapon was taken from any Marine at Sanaa airport."
The Marines' departure came as the U.S. Embassy closed because of increased instability in Yemen amid takeover by the Shiite Houthi rebels.
Few details so far have been released regarding the choice of evacuation plan for Marines and U.S. Embassy personnel. A detachment of about 100 security Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command also departed the country as the embassy closed.