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UAE bans recreational drones after deadly attack claimed by Iran-backed Houthis

Ministry says it may grant exemptions to businesses seeking to film; regulations already restrict flying drones in residential areas as well as near, around and over airports

Screenshot from video purportedly showing fire after drone attack in Abu Dhabi on January 17, 2022. The video could not be independently verified (Screen grab)
Screenshot from video purportedly showing fire after drone attack in Abu Dhabi on January 17, 2022. The video could not be independently verified (Screen grab)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates has banned the flying of drones in the country for recreation after Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed a fatal drone attack on an oil facility and major airport in the country.

As of Saturday, drone hobbyists and other operators of light electric sports aircraft face “legal liabilities” if caught flying the objects, the Interior Ministry said, adding it may grant exemptions to businesses seeking to film.

Government regulations in the UAE already restrict flying drones in residential areas as well as near, around and over airports. Drone users typically must obtain a certificate from the civil aviation authorities.

A rare drone and missile strike on the capital of Abu Dhabi blew up several fuel tankers and killed three people last week.

The Iran-backed Houthis, who hold Yemen’s capital and have fought a bloody, yearslong war with a Saudi-led military coalition that includes the UAE, claimed the assault. While the UAE has largely withdrawn troops from the stalemated conflict, the country continues to be a major player and support local militias on the ground.

The UAE said the Houthis targeted the country with bomb-laden drones and cruise and ballistic missiles, adding the country had intercepted some of the projectiles.

In this satellite image provided by Planet Labs PBC, smoke rises over an Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. fuel depot in the Mussafah neighborhood of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, January 17, 2022. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

In response to the strike, the Saudi-led coalition has escalated attacks on the rebel-held parts of Yemen in the last week.

At least 82 died, many of them migrants, when a Saudi-led coalition airstrike on Friday hit a prison run by Houthi rebels, the rebels and an aid group said.

The incidents come amid a surge in fighting in Yemen including advances by UAE-trained troops. The rebels also seized a UAE-flagged ship and its international crew earlier this month.

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