Saudi Arabia: 12 hurt in attack targeting airport near Yemen
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said 12 people were injured by falling debris from an attempted drone attack Thursday on an airport in the southern Saudi region of Abha, near the kingdom’s border with Yemen.
Hours later, Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who have been battling the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Saudi air defenses destroyed the bomb-laden drone, according to the coalition. Saudi state television and accompanying social media accounts carried video from inside Abha’s airport showing operations there running as normal after the incident.
The coalition said the people who were hurt included travelers and workers at the airport. Two of the injured were Saudi citizens, four were Bangladeshi residents and three were Nepali residents. There was also one person each from Sri Lanka, the Philippines and India hurt.
A Yemen rebel spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yehia Sarie, tweeted that a Houthi drone had hit the target with “precision,” insisting that the airport in Abha is used to carry out attacks on Yemen.
Saudi Arabia has been involved in Yemen’s civil war since 2015, fighting against the rebel Houthis who overran the capital, Sanaa, and ousted the internationally recognized government from power.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden spoke with Saudi King Salman. The White House said the president and king discussed “Iranian-enabled attacks by the Houthis against civilian targets in Saudi Arabia.” Biden underscored U.S. commitment in supporting Saudi Arabia in the defense of its people and territory from such attacks, it added.
Washington condemned Thursday’s attack and said the U.S. would work with the kingdom and international partners to hold the Houthis responsible. “America will have the backs of our friends in the region,” said U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
And U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “We clearly condemn this and all attacks that target civilian infrastructure.”
The war in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of people, both fighters and civilians, and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Charity group Oxfam this week said a yearlong battle over the strategic Yemeni city of Marib alone has displaced about 100,000 people. The fighting in Marib led to increased Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in recent weeks. The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition and backs Yemeni militias fighting the Houthis. U.S. officials have scrambled to reassure the Gulf strategic allies of U.S. defensive support.
The U.S. initially backed the Saudi war effort as the coalition tried to drive the Iranian-backed Houthis from the capital, Sanaa, and restore the previous government to power. President Biden, however, has since tried to distance the U.S. military from involvement in Yemen’s war, where both sides are accused of human rights abuses.
A Saudi readout of the monarch’s call with Biden said King Salman discussed the importance of strengthening mutual security cooperation and cited Saudi support for U.S. efforts in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The White House says Biden briefed the king on ongoing multilateral talks focused on Iran’s nuclear program.
King Salman stressed the need to work together to counter the destabilizing activities of Iran’s proxies in the region, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.
The two also discussed their shared commitment to maintaining balance and stability in oil markets as Brent crude hovers around $90 a barrel.
Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.