Two Indians among 3 killed in Abu Dhabi oil tanker blasts

Two Indians among 3 killed in Abu Dhabi oil tanker blasts

Yemen’s Houthi rebels claim responsibility for attack

Two Indians and a Pakistani were killed in a massive explosion in three petroleum tankers in Abu Dhabi on Monday. The blast is believed to have been sparked by a fire near the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) facilities, in what is claimed as a “drone attack” by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

In a strongly worded statement, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan called the explosions a “cowardly act of terrorism”, and promised to hold Houthi militia “accountable”, indicating there could be reprisals.

If confirmed, this is the second attack this month by Houthi rebels affecting Indians, after they seized a UAE-flagged ship in the Red Sea off the Yemeni coast and took its crew, including seven Indians, hostage.

The Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi said it was awaiting confirmation on the identity of the two Indians killed, and was in “close touch with UAE authorities”. An ADNOC statement said all three who died were employees.

“Those responsible for this unlawful targeting of our country will be held accountable,” a statement issued by the UAE Foreign Ministry said, expressing condolences for the deaths. “The UAE reserves the right to respond to these terrorist attacks and criminal escalation,” it added, describing them as crimes committed in flagrant violation of international law.

Eyewitness accounts and videos shared on social media showed columns of black smoke billowing from the Musaffah Industrial City of Abu Dhabi (ICAD)-3 area outside the UAE capital. The fire is believed to be the result of a drone attack in the port area where ADNOC storage facilities are housed. Another smaller fire was extinguished at the new construction area of the Abu Dhabi international airport about 25 kms away.

“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, according to a Reuters agency report, but added there was no significant damage to the areas.

Houthi rebels, who have been fighting the Yemeni government backed by a Saudi-UAE coalition, claimed they had carried out a “military operation” in the UAE, but this was not confirmed by Emirati officials.

Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdul Salam was quoted in Arabic media, saying the alleged attack was a “warning” to the UAE to “stop interfering in Yemen”.

Houthi militia, believed to be supported by Iran, have in the past claimed to have carried out a number of drone attacks on oil installations in Saudi Arabia as well. The attacks have taken place despite the UAE reducing troop support to Yemen two years ago, and talks between the UAE National Security Advisor and Iranian officials in Tehran on regional security in December 2021.

The explosions come days after Houthi rebels captured a cargo ship Rwabee off the Yemeni port of Hodeidah and have held its crew, including seven Indian nationals, hostage since January 2. India had spoken out at the UN Security Council to condemn the detention of the Indians, and the UNSC issued a statement demanding the immediate release of the vessel and its crew last week.

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