RIYADH: Yemen’s internationally-recognized government said on Friday its forces had intercepted armed drones launched on a southern oil terminal in Hadramout province by Houthi militants as an oil tanker was preparing to dock.
A Yemeni government official said Houthi drones attacked Al-Dhabba oil terminal, located in the southern town of Al-Shihr, as Nissos oil tanker was preparing to enter the terminal.
Nissos was scheduled to load 2 million barrels of crude from the terminal, the official said, adding that there was no damage to the port and the tanker. The office of Hadramout’s governor Mabkhout bin Madi confirmed the attack to Reuters.
The incident is the first major escalation since the Iran-backed Houthi militia and the Yemeni government failed to renew a UN-brokered truce earlier this month, amid differences over payment of salaries for civil servants in Houthi-controlled areas.
Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak said he held a phone call with US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking on Friday to brief him on the attack, and stressed that these terrorist acts directly target the Yemeni people, infrastructure and economic capabilities, as they undermine all international efforts to bring peace to Yemen.
Yemeni Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism strongly condemned the attack, after declaring the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the Arabian Sea a military operations area, and threatening to target oil facilities, commercial ships and oil tankers.
“The attack of the terrorist Houthi militia on Al-Dabbah, one of the most important Yemeni ports, is part of its systematic targeting of infrastructure and attempts to destroy the national economy and expand attacks to include vital facilities that have been outside the war for eight years,” he said in a series of tweets.
“These attacks confirm that the Iranian regime is an official sponsor of terrorism (and) Tehran has developed its tools and booby-trapped drones, car bombs, explosive belts, and cross-border weapons to terrorize countries, threaten energy sources, and blackmail the world,” he added.
The US Energy Information Administration estimates Yemen has proven oil reserves of around 3 billion barrels.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said it was aware of reports of an incident in the vicinity of Al-Shihr and that vessel and crew are safe.
Nissos KEA oil tanker was moving “within zone” on Friday outside Al-Dhabba in the Gulf of Aden, Refinitiv data showed.
UN special envoy Hans Grundberg said he would continue to push for an extended and expanded deal between the warring parties, both under intense international pressure to come to an agreement.
The truce has largely succeeded in stopping the violence across Yemen as well as allowing some fuel ships into Hodeidah port and some commercial flights from Sanaa, both held by the Houthis.