Drone-flying banned in UAE after attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels

Yemenis inspect the site of Saudi-UAE-led airstrikes which hit a prison in the northern province of Saada in Yemen. Photograph: EPA/STR

The flying of drones for recreation has been banned in the United Arab Emirates after Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed a fatal drone attack on an oil facility and major airport.

As of Saturday, drone hobbyists and other operators of light electric sports aircraft face “legal liabilities” if caught flying the objects, the interior ministry said, adding it may grant exemptions to businesses seeking to film.

A rare drone and missile strike on the capital, Abu Dhabi, blew up several fuel tankers and killed three people last week.

The Houthis, who hold Yemen’s capital and have fought a years-long war against a Saudi-led military coalition that includes the UAE, claimed responsibility for the assault.

While the UAE has largely withdrawn troops from the stalemated conflict, the country continues to be a major player and supports local militias on the ground.

The UAE said the Houthis targeted the country with bomb-laden drones and cruise and ballistic missiles, adding the country had intercepted some of the projectiles.

In response to the strike, the Saudi-led coalition has escalated attacks on the rebel-held parts of Yemen in the last week. More than 80 people were killed or wounded on Friday when the coalition bombed a prison operated by Yemen’s Houthi fighters in their northern stronghold of Saada, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.


Meanwhile, the US navy seized a boat in the Gulf of Oman carrying fertiliser used to make explosives while the royal navy has confiscated 1,000kg of illegal drugs in the same waters.

The interceptions were the latest in the Persian Gulf as American and British authorities step up seizures of contraband amid the conflict in Yemen and ongoing drug trafficking.

The US navy’s Middle East-based Fifth Fleet said its guided-missile destroyer USS Cole and patrol ships halted and searched the sailing boat, a stateless fishing dhow, that was sailing from Iran on a well-known maritime arms smuggling route to war-ravaged Yemen last Tuesday.

US forces found 40 tons of urea fertiliser, known to be a key ingredient in home-made improvised explosive devices, hidden on board.

Authorities said the vessel had been previously seized off the coast of Somalia and found last year to be loaded with thousands of assault rifles and rocket launchers, among other weapons.

United Nations experts say weapons with such technical characteristics probably come from Iran to support the Houthi rebels.

The navy turned over the vessel, cargo and Yemeni crew to Yemen’s coastguard earlier this week.

Smuggled weapons

Yemen is awash with small arms that have been smuggled into the country’s poorly controlled ports over years of conflict.

Since 2015, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have been battling the Saudi-led military coalition for control of the nation. Iran says it politically supports the rebels but denies arming them, despite evidence to the contrary.

The smuggled weapons have helped the Houthis gain an edge against the Saudi-led coalition in the seven-year war.

Officials also revealed on Sunday that a royal navy vessel had seized a large quantity of illegal drugs valued at some $26 million from a boat sailing through the Gulf of Oman on January 15th.

The HMS Montrose confiscated 663kg of heroin, 87kg of methamphetamine and 291kg of hashish and marijuana, the joint maritime task force said.

The task force did not elaborate on where the drugs came from, who manufactured them or their ultimate destination.

But Iran over the last decade has seen an explosion in the use of methamphetamine, known locally as “shisheh” or “glass” in Farsi, which has bled into neighbouring countries. – Associated Press