Saudi Arabia says it intercepted Yemen rebel missile over Riyadh

2017-12-20 09:18
Supporters of Shi'ite Houthi rebels attend a rally in Sanaa on December 5. (Hani Mohammed, AP, file)

Supporters of Shi'ite Houthi rebels attend a rally in Sanaa on December 5. (Hani Mohammed, AP, file)

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Riyadh - Saudi Arabia said it shot down a ballistic missile on Tuesday over Riyadh fired from Yemen by Iran-backed Huthi rebels, who announced that the target was the official residence of King Salman.

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley described the strike as bearing "all the hallmarks of previous attacks using Iranian-provided weapons" as she announced Washington would be discussing options for Security Council action against Tehran.

The audacious attack aimed at the heart of Saudi power follows the downing of another missile in November near Riyadh airport that triggered the tightening of a Saudi-led blockade on hunger-stricken Yemen.

READ: Yemen ex-president Saleh confirmed dead: party official

For the past three years, Saudi Arabia has led a military campaign involving air strikes and ground troops against the Huthis, who seized the Yemeni capital from the internationally recognised government in 2014.

The kingdom accuses the Shi'ite rebels of being a proxy for its arch foe Iran, which vehemently denies arming the insurgents.

Humanitarian crisis

An AFP correspondent in Riyadh heard a loud explosion at 10:50 GMT, shortly before King Salman was due to oversee the unveiling of the Saudi annual budget.

"The missile was aimed at populated residential areas in the Riyadh area, and - thank God - was intercepted and destroyed south of Riyadh without any casualties," the official Saudi Press Agency quoted a spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition as saying.

"The possession of Iranian-manufactured ballistic weapons by terrorist organisations, including the Iran-backed Huthi militia, is a threat to regional and international security," Turki al-Maliki added.

More than 8 750 people have been killed since Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government's fight against the Huthis in 2015, triggering what the UN has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"In exchange for a thousand days of bombardment with internationally banned weapons, there has been a thousand days of steadfastness in which our people have demonstrated that their resolve will not be broken," rebel chief Abdulmalik al-Huthi said in a speech on Tuesday.

"Today our people reached the heart of Riyadh - the government palace - with a ballistic missile."

The missile attacks, which could further escalate the Saudi-led military campaign, underscore how the raging Yemen conflict is increasingly spilling across the border.

The US and Saudi Arabia previously accused Iran of supplying the missile involved in November's attack to the rebels, with Haley presenting to the UN last week what she called "undeniable" evidence that the missile was "made in Iran".

Her comments went beyond the findings of a UN investigation which reached no firm conclusion on whether the missile came from an Iranian supplier, saying only that it had a "common origin" to some Iranian designs.

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Read more on:    saudi arabia  |  yemen

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