Shrapnel wounds 12 as Saudi defences blow up drone near airport

Travellers among those hurt by falling debris after Saudi air defences intercept drone near Abha airport.

Saudi security officer walks past Saudi Arabia's Abha airport.
Abha airport, which lies close to the Yemeni border in Saudi Arabia's south, has often been a target of Houthi attacks [File: Faisal al-Nasser/Reuters]

At least 12 people have been injured by shrapnel after Saudi air defences intercepted and destroyed a drone close to the kingdom’s southern border with Yemen.

In comments carried by the Ekhbariya news channel, the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition battling Yemen’s Houthi rebels said on Thursday travellers and workers of various nationalities were wounded by the falling debris in the vicinity of Abha international airport.

Air traffic operations returned to normal after standard safety procedures were carried out, it added.

In a statement carried by Al Arabiya TV, the coalition later warned people in the Houthi-controlled Yemeni capital Sanaa to avoid civilian locations used for military purposes during the next 72 hours while it strikes drone launch sites.

Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said the group hit a military target at Abha airport with a Qasef 2 drone.

Shrapnel from the drone attack at midday fell inside airport grounds and some glass facades were damaged, it said.

Light injuries were sustained by two Saudi nationals and citizens of Bangladesh, Nepal, India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan condemned the “terrorist attack” and said Washington was committed to supporting the kingdom in the defence of its people and territory.

Abha airport has often been a target of Houthi drone and missile attacks. Most are intercepted, but a number of people have been killed and wounded over the years.

INTERACTIVE- Yemen war - air raids on Yemen

The coalition has been fighting the Houthis since early 2015 after the group removed Yemen’s internationally recognised government from power in the capital, Sanaa.

It regularly carries out air raids on what it says are Houthi military targets in Yemen.

The Houthis have over the years launched multiple drone and missile attacks on neighbouring Saudi Arabia, including at airports and oil installations.

The United Arab Emirates, which is also a member of the Saudi-led coalition, has also been targeted over the past month.

The Houthis have claimed responsibility for most of the recent drone and missile attacks on the UAE, although a little-known Iraqi group claimed it was behind a drone attack earlier this month, suggesting the Gulf country is now being targeted from its north and south.

The United Nations estimates the war in Yemen has killed 377,000 people as of the end of 2021, both directly and indirectly through hunger and disease – with 70 percent of those deaths being children.

Millions of people have been displaced, while nearly half of the country’s 30 million people do not have enough food, according to the World Food Programme.

INTERACTIVE- Yemen war - humanitarian situation

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies