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Drone attack on Saudi airport heightens flight tension

June 26, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A terrorist attack, believed by Yemeni militants, has targeted a Saudi Arabian airport, killing one person and injuring 21 others.

The attack, apparently conducted by an armed drone, hit Abha airport in southern Saudi Arabia, used daily by thousands of civilians, Colonel Turki Al Maliki told Gulf News.

The attack heightens tension in a highly volatile part of the world. Just a few days ago, Iran shot a large US surveillance drone (the size of a Boeing 737 airliner) out of the sky in close proximity to a busy civilian airline flight corridor.

The shoot-down sparked a warning to airlines from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and spurred a number of carriers, including Qantas, to alter their flight paths in the region. See: Airlines scramble to shift routes in face of Middle East risk

While not many Australians visit Saudi Arabia or Iran, many thousands travel far closer to those countries than they realise. The two big, regional Middle Eastern rivals lie on either side of the Persian Gulf, one of the world’s busiest corridors for international air traffic.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) yesterday noted the attacks on Abha Airport  and issued the following statement: “IATA condemns any and all targeting of civil aviation, its passengers, facilitates and operations in all conflicts. IATA offers its sympathies to the victims and their families.”

Saudi authorities initially said the attack on the airport killed a Syrian national and injured seven civilians. Later the toll of those injured was revised to 21 – four Indians, two Egyptians, 13 Saudis and two Bangladeshis.

FlightRadar24.com shows air traffic flying above busy Persian Gulf yesterday

Earlier this month, Houthi fighters targeted the same airport with a rocket, injuring 26 civilians, including two children and three women. The BBC reported that the attack involved a cruise missile which struck the arrivals hall. Human Rights Watch denounced it as an apparent war crime.

Last month, Gulf News reported, explosive-laden drone attacks were mounted against oil facilities in Saudi Arabia amid tensions between Iran and the US.

The paper reported that in recent weeks, Yemen-based militants have intensified missile and drone attacks across the border into Saudi Arabia.

Written by Peter Needham

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