Bomb-carrying drone from Yemen rebels targets Saudi airport
By JON GAMBRELL, DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, May 21 (AP) — Yemen’s Iranian-allied Houthi rebels said Tuesday they attacked a Saudi airport and military base with a bomb-laden drone, an assault acknowledged by the kingdom as Mideast tensions remain high between Tehran and the United States. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
The attack on the Saudi city of Najran came after Iran announced it has quadrupled its uranium-enrichment production capacity a year after the U.S. withdrew from its nuclear deal with world powers, though still a level far lower than needed for atomic weapons.
Underlining the tensions, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is seeking expanded executive powers to better deal with “economic war” triggered by the Trump’s administration’s renewal and escalation of sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic, the state-run IRNA news agency reported Tuesday.
By increasing production, Iran soon will exceed the stockpile limitations set by the nuclear accord. Tehran has set a July 7 deadline for Europe to set new terms for the deal, or it will enrich closer to weapons-grade levels in a Middle East already on edge. The U.S. has deployed bombers and an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf over still-unspecified threats from Iran.
In the drone attack, the Houthis’ Al-Masirah satellite news channel said early Tuesday they targeted the airport in Najran with a Qasef-2K drone, striking an “arms depot.” Najran, 840 kilometers (525 miles) southwest of Riyadh, lies on the Saudi-Yemen border and has repeatedly been targeted by the Iran-allied Houthis.
A statement earlier on the state-run Saudi Press Agency quoted Saudi-led coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki as saying the Houthis “had tried to target” a civilian site in Najran, without elaborating.
Al-Maliki warned there would be a “strong deterrent” to such attacks and described the Houthis as the “terrorist militias of Iran.” Similar Houthi attacks in the past have sparked rounds of Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen, which have been widely criticized internationally for killing civilians.
Civilian airports throughout the Middle East often host military bases.
The New York Times last year reported that American intelligence analysts were based in Najran, assisting the Saudis and a U.S. Army Green Berets deployment on the border. The Pentagon referred questions to the U.S. military’s Central Command, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Last week, the Houthis launched a coordinated drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. Earlier this month, officials in the United Arab Emirates alleged that four oil tankers were sabotaged and U.S. diplomats relayed a warning that commercial airlines could be misidentified by Iran and attacked, something dismissed by Tehran.