A suspected drone attack killed three people in a fuel tank blast in Abu Dhabi on Monday, officials said, as Yemen’s Huthi rebels announced a “military operation” in the United Arab Emirates.
Two Indians and a Pakistani died as three petrol tanks exploded near the storage facility of oil giant ADNOC, while a fire also ignited in a construction area at Abu Dhabi airport.
Police said “small flying objects” were found at both places, suggesting the sort of deliberate attack that is almost unheard of in the wealthy UAE, a renowned safe haven in the volatile Middle East.
Although the UAE gave few details about the incidents or the alleged perpetrators, neighbouring Saudi Arabia and Gulf ally Bahrain both labelled them “terrorist” attacks.
And while there was no formal claim of responsibility, Abdul Ilah Hajar, adviser to the president of the Huthis’ Supreme Political Council in Sanaa, said it was a warning shot from the rebels.
“But it is a warning if the UAE continues its hostility to Yemen, it will not be able in the future to withstand the coming strikes.”
Drone attacks are a hallmark of the Huthis’ assaults on Saudi Arabia, the UAE ally which is leading the coalition fighting for Yemen’s government in a grinding civil war.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry condemned “in the strongest terms the cowardly terrorist attack” while Bahrain also slammed the “terrorist Huthi militia’s launch of a number of booby-trapped drones”.
The UAE said the Rwabee, whose 11 crew are now hostages, was a “civilian cargo vessel” and called the hijacking a “dangerous escalation” in the busy Red Sea shipping route.
Yemen’s conflict has been a catastrophe for millions of its citizens who have fled their homes, with many on the brink of famine, in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The pro-government Giants Brigade, backed by the Saudis and UAE, recently delivered a significant blow to the rebels by retaking three districts in Shabwa governorate.