Explosive-laden ‘drone’ boat targets Saudi port of Yanbu

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates– A remotely piloted boat full of explosives focused the Saudi port of Yanbu within the Pink Sea on Tuesday, the dominion mentioned, with the blast sending black smoke into the sky off the coast.

Saudi Arabia claimed to have intercepted and destroyed the assault boat. Nonetheless, non-public safety corporations instructed business site visitors close to the port might have been hit within the assault.


Particulars remained scarce, however the incident comes after a sequence of assaults on delivery within the wider Mideast area amid a shadow conflict between Iran and Israel and towards the backdrop of ongoing negotiations between Tehran and world powers over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal.

The incident additionally comes amid the dominion’s yearslong conflict towards Yemen’s Houthi rebels. The Houthis have prior to now used bomb-laden drones and explosive-packed boats in assaults concentrating on the dominion. Nonetheless, the rebels didn’t instantly declare any assaults on Tuesday.

The state-run Saudi Press Company quoted Saudi army spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki saying the port was focused by the drone boat.

“The booby-trapped boat was dealt and destroyed in accordance with the foundations of engagement,” the report quoted al-Maliki as saying, with out offering proof to help his declare.

The UK Maritime Commerce Operations, run by the British navy, merely mentioned it was “conscious of reviews of an incident” and that investigations have been ongoing. Personal maritime safety agency Dryad World mentioned it had reviews {that a} ship had been “attacked,” with out elaborating.

Maritime safety agency Neptune P2P Group reported that black smoke was seen billowing close to the south entrance of the Yanbu port.

British maritime safety agency Ambrey reported an “incident” off western Saudi Arabia, between the ports of Yanbu and Rabigh. Earlier Tuesday morning, smoke was seen rising from a vessel off the Saudi oil-shipping port of of Yanbu, the agency mentioned. A number of tankers stay anchored or drifting within the space.

Yanbu port management broadcast a message by marine VHF radio, warning vessels to extend their degree of alertness and monitor for any suspicious exercise, Ambrey mentioned.

The U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based fifth Fleet declined to right away touch upon the incident.

In the meantime, American and Iranian warships had a tense encounter within the Persian Gulf earlier this month, the primary such incident in a couple of 12 months, the U.S. Navy mentioned Tuesday.

Footage launched by the Navy confirmed a ship commanded by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard reduce in entrance of the USCGC Monomoy, inflicting the Coast Guard vessel to return to an abrupt cease with its engine smoking on April 2.

The Guard additionally did the identical with one other Coast Guard vessel, the USCGC Wrangell, mentioned Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a fifth Fleet spokeswoman. Such shut passes threat the ships colliding at sea.

Iran didn’t instantly acknowledge the incident within the southern reaches of the Persian Gulf, which resulted in no accidents or harm.

“The U.S. crews issued a number of warnings through bridge-to-bridge radio, 5 brief blasts from the ships’ horns, and whereas the (Iranian) Harth 55 responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio queries, they continued the unsafe maneuvers,” Rebarich mentioned. “After roughly three hour of the U.S. issuing warning and conducting defensive maneuvers, the (Iranian) vessels maneuvered away from the U.S. ships and opened distance between them.”

The Wall Avenue Journal first reported on the incident, which concerned the Iranian Harth help ship and three Iranian fast-attack craft. The Coast Guard items function out of Bahrain as a part of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, its greatest unit abroad.

The interplay marked the primary “unsafe and unprofessional” incident involving the Iranians since April 15, 2020, Rebarich mentioned. Nonetheless, Iran had largely stopped such incidents in 2018 and practically within the entirety of 2019, she mentioned.

In 2017, the Navy recorded 14 situations of what it describes as “unsafe and or unprofessional” interactions with Iranians forces. It recorded 35 in 2016, and 23 in 2015.

The incidents at sea virtually at all times contain the Revolutionary Guard, which reviews solely to Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Sometimes, they contain Iranian speedboats armed with deck-mounted machine weapons and rocket launchers test-firing weapons or shadowing American plane carriers passing by way of the Strait of Hormuz, the slim mouth of the Persian Gulf by way of which 20% of all oil passes.

Some analysts consider the incidents are meant partly to squeeze President Hassan Rouhani’s administration after the 2015 nuclear deal. They embody a 2016 incident during which Iranian forces captured and held in a single day 10 U.S. sailors who strayed into the Islamic Republic’s territorial waters.

“U.S. naval forces proceed to stay vigilant and are educated to behave in an expert method, whereas our commanding officers retain the inherent proper to behave in self-defense,” Rebarich mentioned.


The incident comes as Iran negotiates with world powers in Vienna over Tehran and Washington returning to the 2015 nuclear deal, talks as a result of resume Tuesday. It additionally follows a sequence of incidents throughout the Mideast attributed to a shadow conflict between Iran and Israel, which incorporates assaults on regional delivery and sabotage at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.

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