Yemeni government intercepts Houthi drones attacking southern oil terminal

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Yemen’s government said on Friday its forces had intercepted armed drones launched against a southern oil terminal by Iran-backed Houthi fighters as an oil tanker was preparing to dock.

A Yemeni government official said Houthi drones attacked al-Dhabba oil terminal, located in the town of al-Shihr in Hadramawt governorate, as the oil tanker Nissos was preparing to enter the terminal.

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Nissos was scheduled to load 2 million barrels of crude from the terminal, the official said, adding that there was no damage to the port and the tanker. The office of Hadramawt’s governor Mabkhout bin Madi confirmed the attack to Reuters.

The Houthis said they carried out a warning attack to prevent the vessel from “smuggling” crude oil from the port.

“We renew our warning to all companies to fully comply with the decisions of the authorities in Sanaa and shun away from any contribution to the looting of Yemeni resources,” a statement from the Houthis said.

The incident is the first major escalation since the Houthis and the internationally-recognized government failed to renew a UN-brokered truce earlier this month, amid differences over payment of salaries for civil servants in Houthi-controlled areas.

Yemen’s oil output has collapsed since 2015 when the Arab Coalition intervened in Yemen’s war to try to restore the government to power.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates Yemen has proven oil reserves of around 3 billion barrels.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said it was aware of reports of an incident in the vicinity of al-Shihr and that vessel and crew are safe.

Marshall Islands-flagged Nissos KEA oil tanker was moving “within zone” on Friday outside al-Dhabba in the Gulf of Aden, Refinitiv data showed.

United Nations special envoy Hans Grundberg said he would continue to push for an extended and expanded deal between the warring parties, both under intense international pressure to come to an agreement.

The truce has largely succeeded in stopping the violence across Yemen as well as allowing some fuel ships into Hodeidah port and some commercial flights from Sanaa, both held by the Houthis.

A coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE intervened in Yemen after the Houthis ousted the government from Sanaa. The group says it is fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.

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