Missile intercepted as loud explosion heard over Riyadh airport SaudiArabia
Saudi Arabia has intercepted a ballistic missile from Yemen, reports say, after a loud explosion was heard near Riyadh airport.
Saudi air defence forces were quoted by broadcaster Al-Arabiya as saying they intercepted the missile north-east of the capital.
A TV channel linked to Houthi rebels in Yemen said the missile was launched at the King Khalid International Airport.
Saudi forces have reported shooting down Houthi missiles before.
No previous missiles have come so close to a major population centre.
State news channel Al-Ekhbariya said the missile was “of limited size” and caused no damage.
Yemen has been devastated by a war between forces loyal to the internationally-recognised government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those allied to the Houthi rebel movement.
Saudi Arabia is leading a campaign to defeat the Houthis, and is the biggest power in an international air coalition that has bombed the rebel group since 2015.
Map showing Saudi Arabia, Riyadh and Yemen
UN-brokered talks have failed to bring an end to the bloodshed, which has claimed more than 8,600 lives and injured nearly 50,000 since the Saudi-led campaign began.
The conflict has also left 20.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, created the world’s largest food security emergency, and led to a cholera outbreak that is believed to have affected 884,000 people and caused 2,184 deaths.
YEMEN REBELS SAY THEY FIRED THE MISSILE
Yemen’s Houthi rebels said Saturday they’d targeted the international airport in Riyadh with a ballistic missile in a rare attack on one of the most vital targets in the Saudi capital.
The projectile was aimed at King Khalid International Airport, located about 22 miles (35 kilometers) north of Riyadh, the rebel-controlled Saba news agency reported. Saudi state-run media said the kingdom’s air defenses intercepted a missile northeast of Riyadh, with no material damage to the airport. Residents in the capital said they heard a loud bang.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have been mired since 2015 in a conflict in Yemen to back an internationally-recognized government against pro-Iranian Shiite rebels. The kingdom says the Houthi rebels are armed and backed by regional rival Iran. While the kingdom’s allies have been able to recover areas in southern Yemen from the Houthis, the rebels still control the capital Sana’a and territories in the north.
The attack is “a problem for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who would much prefer the narrative about Saudi Arabia be focused on the gradually loosening of social restrictions in the kingdom, and on economic plans” rather than the costly war in Yemen, said Hani Sabra, founder of Alef Advisory, a Middle East political risk practice.
The Saudi-led coalition said debris from the missile fell over an uninhabited area and the airport’s authority said there was no disruption to flights.