Drone flight banned in United Arab Emirates after Houthi rebel attack in Yemen

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Flying recreational drones has been banned in the United Arab Emirates after Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed a deadly drone attack on an oil facility and a major airport.

From Saturday, drone hobbyists and other light electric sport aircraft operators will have to face “legal liabilities” if caught flying the objects, the Home Office said, adding that it can grant exemptions to companies wanting to film.

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

The Houthis, who hold Yemen’s capital and have waged a years-long war against a Saudi-led military coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates, claimed responsibility for the attack.

While the UAE has largely withdrawn its troops from the deadlocked conflict, the country remains a key player and supports local militias on the ground.

The UAE said the Houthis had attacked the country with bomb-laden drones as well as cruise missiles 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 rebel-held parts of Yemen over the past week. More than 80 people were killed or wounded on Friday when the coalition bombed a prison run by Yemeni Houthi fighters in their northern stronghold of Saada, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

seizures

Meanwhile, in the Gulf of Oman, the US Navy seized a boat carrying fertilizers used to make explosives, while the Royal Navy has seized 1,000kg of illegal drugs in the same waters.

The arrests were the latest in the Persian Gulf, as US and British authorities stepped up seizures of contraband amid conflict in Yemen and the ongoing drug trade.

The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, based in the Middle East, said its guided-missile destroyer USS Cole and patrol ships stopped and searched the sailboat, a stateless dhow, which was sailing from Iran on a known sea-weapons smuggling route to the war-ravaged ships in Yemen last week Tuesday.

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

Authorities said the ship was previously seized off the coast of Somalia and found loaded with thousands of assault rifles and rocket launchers, among other things, last year.

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

The Navy handed over the ship, cargo and Yemeni crew to the Yemen Coast Guard earlier this week.

Smuggled weapons

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

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

The smuggled weapons have helped the Houthis gain an advantage over the Saudi-led coalition in the Seven Years’ War.

Officials also revealed on Sunday that a Royal Navy vessel had seized a large quantity of illegal drugs worth about $26 million from a boat cruising the Gulf of Oman on January 15.

HMS Montrose seized 663 kg of heroin, 87 kg of methamphetamine and 291 kg of hashish and marijuana, the Joint Maritime Task Force said.

The task force did not elaborate on where the drugs came from, who made them, or where they ultimately ended up.

But Iran has seen an explosion in the use of methamphetamine, known locally as “shisheh” or “glass” in Farsi, over the past decade that has spilled into neighboring countries. – Associated Press

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