According to the Ministry of Defence of Saudi Arabia, an explosive-laden boat was intercepted off the Red Sea port of Yanbu on April 27. The report came after Saudi maritime security firms claimed “unconfirmed reports” of an attack on a vessel in the area.
“The booby-trapped boat was dealt and destroyed according to the rules of engagement,” Saudi military spokesman Colonel al-Maliki said.
Investigations are ongoing to identify those behind the attack, the Saudi Defense Ministry reported. However, the statement made on state media did not reveal whether there had been any damage as a result of the operation to intercept and destroy the remote-controlled boat.
The port of Yanbu is 870 kilometers west of Riyadh. It serves as the end point of the East-West Pipeline. It allows crude oil pumped in its eastern fields to be shipped directly via the Red Sea, avoiding the Gulf’s checkpoint at the Strait of Hormuz. A large oil refinery is located there.
Earlier, local security firm Dryad Global had reported that it received “unconfirmed reports” that a vessel, possibly the oil tanker NCC Dammam had been attacked off this same port. The tanker was reportedly owned by a unit of Saudi firm Bahri. The National Shipping Company denied these claims.
According to the reports by Maritime security firm Neptune P2P Group and British maritime security company Ambry, black smoke was seen billowing near the south entrance of the Yanbu port. Marine VHF radio warned vessels to increase their level of alertness and monitor for any suspicious activity.
The attack took place amid the ongoing clashes between forces of the Saudi-led coalition and Ansar Allah (also known as the Houthis) in Yemen. According to the reports, the Houthis have recently renewed their push on Marib.
Moreover, the Houthis launch numerous attacks on the territory of Saudi Arabia, targeting strategically-important sites with suicide drones. For example, on April 26th, the Houthis carried out a successful attack on the King Khalid Air base with a Qasef-2k drone.The Houthis are also known to use booby-trapped boats to carry attacks off the Saudi shores.
The Houthis have been targeting Saudi-led coalition warships with remotely-controlled WBIEDs for several years. In 2017, a detailed report by the Conflict Armament Research (CAR) revealed that Iranian components were used in the making of these makeshift anti-shipping weapon.
At the same time, Israeli and Iranian ships in the Red Sea have been subject to regular attacks in recent weeks and months. Tel Aviv and Tehran blame each other but with little evidence to support either side’s claims.
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