Kamran Jebreili / AP
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – A drone strike may have caused an explosion that killed three oil tankers in Abu Dhabi and another fire at an extension of the Airport Abu Dhabi International flight on Monday left three people dead and six injured, police said.
Abu Dhabi police identified the dead as two Indian nationals and one Pakistani. It did not identify the injured, who police said had minor or moderate injuries.
Police said an investigation is underway.
While Abu Dhabi police did not immediately name any suspects for a possible attack, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for an attack targeting the United Arab Emirates. without detailing. The Iran-backed Houthis have claimed a number of attacks that Saudi Arabian officials later denied took place.
The incident happened while Yemen’s years-long war was underway and when an Emirati-flagged ship was recently seized by the Houthis. That’s because Abu Dhabi has largely withdrawn its national forces from the conflict that is dividing the world’s poorest Arab nation while still supporting local militias there.
Abu Dhabi police said preliminary investigations found small flying objects, possibly belonging to a drone, that crashed in two areas and could have been the cause of the explosion and fire. . They said there was no significant damage from the incident without providing further details.
Police described the airport fire as “minor” and said it took place at an extension of the international airport still under construction. For years, the airport is home to Etihad Airways which has been building a new Midfielder Terminal, but it is unclear if that is where the fire occurred.
The airport and Etihad did not immediately respond to requests for comment, however there were a series of flight delays on Monday morning.
Police said another explosion hit three oil tankers near a depot of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company in the Musaffah area. The neighborhood, 22 kilometers (13 miles) from downtown Abu Dhabi, also has a network of oil pipelines and 36 storage tanks, from which transport trucks carry fuel across the country.
On Monday, Houthi military spokesman Yahia Sarei said the group had launched an attack deep into the UAE. He did not provide further details, saying a statement would be made soon.
The location of the ADNOC depot where the tankers caught fire is about 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) northeast of Saada, a stronghold of the Houthis in Yemen.
The UAE has been at war in Yemen since early 2015 and is a key member of the Saudi-led coalition that launched attacks on Iran-backed Houthis after the group captured the capital. capital of Yemen and toppled the internationally backed government from power.
Although the UAE has reduced the number of troops on the ground, it continues to be actively involved in the war and supports key militias fighting the Houthis. It also works closely with the United States in counterterrorism operations in Yemen.
The Houthis have come under pressure in recent weeks and are suffering heavy losses as Yemeni forces, allied and backed by the UAE, have pushed back the rebel group in key provinces in the south and central region. of the country.
Yemen’s government-aligned forces, supported by the UAE-backed Giants Brigade and with help from Saudi air strikes, have recaptured the entire southern province of Shabwa from the Houthis earlier this month and advance in nearby Marib province.
The incident happened while South Korean President Moon Jae-in was visiting the UAE. During the president’s meeting with Emirati Prime Minister and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on Sunday, the two countries are said to have reached a preliminary agreement worth about $3.5 billion to sell the name Korea’s medium-range surface-to-air missile for the UAE.
The Houthis have claimed previous attacks on Abu Dhabi’s airport, as well as the emirate’s Barakah nuclear power plant – claims that Emirati officials have denied in the past.
The Houthis used bomb-laden drones to carry out crude and imprecise attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE throughout the war. The group has also launched missiles at Saudi airports, oil and gas facilities and pipelines, and used stranded boats to attack key shipping lanes.
While civilians have been killed in some of these attacks in Saudi Arabia, the number of civilian deaths has been in Yemen. The war has killed 130,000 people in Yemen – both civilians and fighters – and exacerbated hunger and famine across the impoverished country.
Torbjorn Soltvedt, an analyst with risk intelligence firm Verisk Maplecroft, notes that while suspicion will likely fall on the Houthis, Iraq-based militias have also threatened Emiratis with attacks.
“Today’s attack comes just days after Iran-backed groups threatened to attack Abu Dhabi in response to Saudi Arabia’s accusations of meddling in Iraqi politics,” he said.
“The attack is another reminder of the highly sophisticated missile and drone threat facing the UAE and the region’s other major oil producers,” he added. “Unless the Gulf Cooperation Council countries can find a solution to diffuse regional tensions, or prevent hostilities from countries in the region and outside the country, these countries will remain vulnerable.”
Associated Press writers Isabel DeBre and Jon Gambrell in Dubai and Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report.