DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – A suspected drone attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeting a major oil plant in Abu Dhabi killed three people and set off a separate fire at Abu Dhabi International Airport on Monday, police said.
Police in the United Arab Emirates identified the dead as two Indian nationals and a Pakistani. It did not identify the injured, who according to police suffered minor injuries moderately in an industrial area where Abu Dhabi’s state-owned energy company operates a pipeline network and an oil tanker warehouse.
Three transport tankers caught fire at the plant, while another fire was triggered in an extension of Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Police said while an investigation was underway, preliminary results suggested there were small flying objects, possibly belonging to drones, that fell into the two areas and may have caused the explosion and fire. They said there was no significant damage from the incidents, without giving further details.
Meanwhile, Yemen’s Houthi insurgents claimed to be behind an attack on the United Arab Emirates on Monday, without immediately elaborating. The Iranian-backed Houthis have claimed several attacks, which Emirati officials later denied took place.
The incident comes as Yemen’s years-long war continues and when a ship under the Emirati flag was recently captured by the Houthis. Although the United Arab Emirates has largely withdrawn its own forces from the conflict that divides the poorest nation of the Arab world, they are still actively engaged in Yemen and support local militias fighting the Houthis.
The United Arab Emirates has been at war in Yemen since early 2015 and was a key member of the Saudi-led coalition that launched attacks on the Houthis after the group overran Yemen’s capital and ousted the internationally backed government from power.
The Houthis have come under pressure in recent weeks and are suffering heavy losses as Yemeni forces, allied and backed by the United Arab Emirates, have pushed the rebels back into the country’s central southern and central provinces, putting Houthi’s efforts to complete their control All over the country. the northern half of Yemen.
Yemen’s pro-government forces recaptured the entire southern Shabwa province from the Houthis earlier this month and made progress in the nearby Marib province. They were aided by the UAE-backed Giants Brigades and had the help of Saudi airstrikes.
The Abu Dhabi airport fire was described by police as “minor” and took place in an expansion of the international airport, which is still under construction. For years, the airport, home to Etihad Airways, has been building its new Midfield Terminal, but it was not clear if that was where the fire took place.
Etihad Airways said “precautionary measures resulted in a short interruption for a small number of flights” and that airport operations have returned to normal. Abu Dhabi Airports did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The second explosion hit three petroleum transport tankers near another complex Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. in Musaffah industrial area. The company describes it as a pipeline and terminal facility located about 22 kilometers (13 miles) from the center of the city of Abu Dhabi, where 36 storage tanks also supply transportation trucks with fuel. It is also a short distance from Al-Dhafra Air Base, a military installation hosting US and French forces.
The location of the ADNOC facility where the tankers caught fire is approximately 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) northeast of Saada, the Houthi stronghold of Yemen.
While Emirati troops have been killed in the war in Yemen, the conflict so far has not directly affected the daily lives of the wider UAE, a country with a large foreign workforce that is also home to Dubai, a glittering city of skyscrapers and five-star hotels.
The incident comes as South Korean President Moon Jae-in visits the United Arab Emirates. During a meeting with Emirati Prime Minister and Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on Sunday, the two countries reportedly reached a preliminary agreement worth about $ 3.5 billion to sell mid-range South Korean surface-to-air missiles to the UAE.
At an event attended by the South Korean president earlier in the day, Emirati’s energy minister Suhail Mazrouei declined to comment on the explosion at ADNOC’s facility, saying only that police would provide updates on their investigation.
The Houthis have used bomb-laden drones to launch brutal and imprecise attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE during the six-year war. The group has also fired missiles at Saudi airports, oil facilities and pipelines, using captured boats to attack key shipping routes.
Although there have been civilian deaths in Saudi Arabia since some of these attacks, the overwhelming number of civilian deaths in the conflict have been in Yemen. The war has killed 130,000 people in Yemen – both civilians and warriors – and has exacerbated hunger and famine in the poor country.
Torbjorn Soltvedt, an analyst at risk intelligence firm Verisk Maplecroft, noted that while the Houthis have claimed responsibility for an attack on the United Arab Emirates, Iraqi-based militias have also threatened Emiratis with attacks.
“Today’s attack comes just days after Iranian – backed groups threatened to attack Abu Dhabi in response to alleged emirate interference in Iraqi politics,” he said.
He said the attack highlights the missile and drone threat facing the UAE and the region’s other major oil producers. He said that unless the Arab Gulf states find a solution to disperse regional tensions, “they will remain vulnerable to attack.”
Associated Press writers Isabel DeBre and Jon Gambrell in Dubai and Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report.
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