Middle East

UAE says it suspects fuel trucks hit by drones, Yemeni Houthis claim attack

DUBAI, Jan 17 (Reuters) – Three fuel trucks exploded and a fire broke out near Abu Dhabi airport on Monday in what Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group said was an attack deep inside the United Arab Emirates.

The Houthi movement, which is battling a Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE, has frequently launched cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, but has claimed few such attacks on the UAE, mostly denied by Emirati authorities.

Abu Dhabi police said three fuel tanker trucks had exploded in the industrial Musaffah area near storage facilities of oil firm ADNOC and that a fire broke out at a construction site at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

“Initial investigations found parts of a small plane that could possibly be a drone at both sites that could have caused the explosion and the fire,” the police said in a statement on state news agency WAM.

There was no “significant damage” from the incidents and a full investigation has been launched, the statement added.

The Houthi’s military spokesman said the group launched a military operation “deep in the UAE” and would announce details in coming hours.

UAE authorities and ADNOC did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment. The coalition’s spokesman did not immediately respond.

Pro-coalition forces backed by the UAE recently joined fighting against the Houthis in Yemen’s energy-producing regions of Shabwa and Marib.

The UAE had largely scaled down its military presence in Yemen in 2019 amid a military stalemate and heightened regional tensions with Iran, but continues to hold sway through Yemeni forces it armed and trained.

The Houthis, who ousted the internationally recognised government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the coalition to intervene, have said that their growing military capabilities would allow the group to target the UAE.

In July 2018, the UAE denied reports that the Houthis attacked Abu Dhabi airport with a drone. A month later, Dubai International Airport said it was operating as normal after Houthi-run media said the group launched a drone attack there.

In December 2017, the Houthis said they fired a cruise missile towards a nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi, which Emirati authorities denied.

Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous; additional reporting by Raya Jalabi; Editing by William Maclean

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