Saudi Arabia foils Houthi bombing attempt on Aramco fuel terminal
RIYADH // Saudi forces have foiled an attempt to blow up an Aramco fuel terminal in southern Saudi Arabia using a high-speed boat laden with explosives, the interior ministry said on Wednesday, accusing Yemen’s Houthi rebels of being behind the plot.
The boat, sent from a small island off the Yemeni coast, was targeting a petroleum products distribution terminal in Jazan run by Saudi oil giant Aramco when it was intercepted on Tuesday, the ministry said.
There were no immediate reports of any injuries in the incident.
Saudi naval forces opened fire on the remote-controlled boat — after it was determined to be unmanned — intercepting it inside Saudi territorial waters some 1.5 nautical miles from its target, according to the ministry. The boat was loaded with “strong explosive material”, it said.
Saudi Arabia accused the Iran-aligned Houthis of being behind the attempted attack, saying the group which controls much of northern Yemen was “threatening waterways and naval facilities using booby-trapped boats and naval mines”.
It vowed to foil all “terrorist attempts” against the kingdom and to “reach those behind them from the Houthi militias”.
Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab coalition that is fighting the Houthis, who have seized much of northern Yemen since 2014 and forced president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi into exile.
In January, Saudi Arabia said one of its frigates was damaged in a suicide boat attack by the Houthis off the Yemeni port of Hodeidah. The Houthis said the frigate was hit by a missile fired by the group.
The interior ministry said the boat was tracked from the moment it left a small Yemeni island, and as it accelerated when it entered Saudi territorial waters towards the terminal and fuel distribution station.
“When Saudi naval forces intercepted it, they found no one on it and that it was being remotely operated, which necessitated that it be dealt with by shooting at its engine,” the statement said.
The UN said on Wednesday a new round of peace talks between Yemen’s warring sides should begin by the end of May, as alarm grows over the country’s humanitarian crisis.
UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said negotiations were under way to avoid a military battle for the port of Hodeida, in what he hoped would be a first step towards a ceasefire.
“We are at the preliminary stage, but time is also a real constraint for us, because my aim is to finish all of this before Ramadan,” he said, adding that he hoped “to enter into a new round of talks before Ramadan”.
Ramadan is set to begin around May 27 this year.
Even if Mr Cheikh Ahmed manages to get the parties to the table, any success will be hard-won.
Since Yemen’s conflict escalated two years ago, all UN mediation attempts and seven declared ceasefires have failed.
* Reuters and Agence France-Presse
Updated: April 26, 2017 04:00 AM