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Two Indians, 1 Pakistani Killed in Possible Drone Blast in Abu Dhabi

Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group has taken responsibility for the attack.

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New Delhi: Two Indians and a Pakistani national were killed on Monday, January 17, after a fire caused by “small flying objects”, possibly drones, triggered an explosion that hit three petroleum tankers in the UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi, police said.

Another minor fire broke out in the new construction area of the Abu Dhabi International Airport, according to the Emirates News Agency (WAM).

Unverified footage on social media showed a thick plume of black smoke billowing from what appeared to be the Musaffah area.

“Initial investigations found parts of a small plane that could possibly be a drone at both sites that could have caused the explosion and the fire,” Abu Dhabi police said in a statement, adding there was no “significant damage”.

“Preliminary investigations suggest that the cause of the fires are small flying objects, possibly belonging to drones, that fell in the two areas. Teams from the competent authorities have been dispatched and the fire is currently being put out, it said.

Abu Dhabi police identified the dead as two Indian nationals and one Pakistani, Gulf News reported. The Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi has also tweeted that two of those dead are Indian nationals.

At least six persons were injured, police said, without disclosing their identity.

Authorities have launched an extensive investigation into the cause of the fire and the circumstances surrounding it, police said.

“However, there are no significant damages resulting from the two accidents,” Wam reported.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have claimed that they have targeted the United Arab Emirates, without giving details. Yemen’s Houthi group has taken responsibility for several attacks on Saudi oil facilities in the past, mostly denied by Emirati authorities.

The Houthi’s military spokesman said the group launched a military operation “deep in the UAE” and would announce details in coming hours.

The incidents coincided with a visit to the UAE by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. A Blue House official said a planned summit between Moon and Abu Dhabi’s crown prince was cancelled due to an “unforeseen and urgent matter of state”.

Security climate

The suspected drone attacks would concern oil market watchers at a time when global powers are trying to salvage a nuclear deal with Iran, said Torbjorn Soltvedt, Principal MENA Analyst at risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft.

“With negotiators running out of time, the risk of a deterioration in the region’s security climate is rising,” he said.

The Yemen war is largely seen in the region as a proxy war between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran. A senior Emirati official had visited Tehran for talks with Iran’s new hardline president last month in a bid to improve ties.

The UAE had largely scaled down its military presence in Yemen in 2019 but continues to hold sway through Yemeni forces it armed and trained. Pro-coalition forces backed by the UAE recently joined fighting against the Houthis in Yemen’s energy-producing Shabwa and Marib.

(With PTI and Reuters inputs)