Three killed in 'heinous' Houthi drone attack near Abu Dhabi

Yemen's Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for a suspected drone attack on the United Arab Emirates.

A general view of the Abu Dhabi skyline

The Houthi rebels have previously threatened to target Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Source: Getty

A suspected drone attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels targeting a key oil facility in Abu Dhabi has killed three people and sparked a separate fire at Abu Dhabi's international airport, police say.

Police in the United Arab Emirates identified the dead as two Indian nationals and one Pakistani. It did not identify the wounded, who police said suffered minor to moderate injuries at an industrial area where Abu Dhabi's state-owned energy company runs a pipeline network and an oil tanker storage facility.

Three transport tankers caught fire at the facility, while another fire was sparked at an extension of Abu Dhabi International Airport.

An aerial shot of Abu Dhabi International Airport on 8 December, 2021.
An aerial shot of Abu Dhabi International Airport on 8 December, 2021. Source: Planet Labs PBC

Police said that while an investigation was underway, preliminary findings indicated there were small flying objects, possibly belonging to drones, that fell in the two areas and may have caused the explosion and fire. They said there was no significant damage from the incidents, without offering further details.

"We condemn the Huthi terrorist militia's targeting of civilian areas and facilities on UAE soil today... this sinful targeting will not go unpunished," UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said in a statement, as his ministry described the attack as a "heinous criminal escalation".

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said on Monday it had destroyed eight drones launched towards the kingdom, Saudi state media reported.

Meanwhile, Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed they were behind an attack targeting the United Arab Emirates on Monday, without immediately elaborating. The Iranian-backed Houthis have claimed several attacks that Emirati officials later denied took place.

The incident comes as Yemen's yearslong war rages on and as an Emirati-flagged vessel was recently captured by the Houthis. Although the UAE has largely withdrawn its own forces from the conflict tearing apart the Arab world's poorest nation, it is still actively engaged in Yemen and supports local militias there fighting the Houthis.

The airport fire in Abu Dhabi was described by police as "minor" and took place at an extension of the international airport that 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 disruption 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 other blast struck three petroleum transport tankers near a complex for the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. in the Musaffah industrial area. The company describes it as a pipeline and terminal facility located some 22km from the centre of the city of Abu Dhabi, where 36 storage tanks also supply transport trucks carrying fuel. It is also a short distance from Al-Dhafra Air Base, a military installation that hosts US and French forces.

The location of the ADNOC facility where the tankers caught fire is approximately 1800km northeast of Saada, the Houthis' stronghold in Yemen.

While Emirati troops have been killed in the war in Yemen, the conflict so far has not directly affected daily life in the wider UAE, a country with a vast foreign workforce that is also home to Dubai, a glitzy city of skyscrapers and five-star hotels.

with Reuters

3 min read
Published 18 January 2022 at 5:57am
Source: AAP, SBS