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Saudi Arabia says Huthi missile attack on Riyadh thwarted

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    Agence France-Presse

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia   /   Sun, February 28, 2021   /   12:30 pm
 Saudi Arabia says Huthi missile attack on Riyadh thwarted A handout photo taken and released by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on March 29, 2020 shows Saudi-led coalition spokesman Colonel Turki Al-Malki giving explanations during a press conference, in Riyadh, on the displayed missile's debris fired on March 28 by Yemeni Huthi military group and intercepted by Riyadh. (Agence France Presse/SPA)

Loud explosions shook Riyadh on Saturday as a Saudi-led military coalition said it thwarted a missile attack launched by Yemen's Huthi rebels, which sent debris raining down on civilian homes.

The Iran-backed Huthis have escalated attacks on the kingdom, while they step up an offensive to seize the Saudi-backed Yemeni government's last northern stronghold of Marib. 

The Saudi-led coalition said it intercepted a Huthi ballistic missile targeting Riyadh, according to the official SPA news agency.

Fragments of the missile scattered over several Riyadh neighbourhoods, damaging at least one home but no casualties were reported, state-run Al-Ekhbariya television said.

AFP correspondents in the Saudi capital reported hearing multiple loud explosions. The night sky lit up with a bright flash following the interception of a missile, state television footage showed.

Separately, the coalition said it intercepted six Huthi drones targeting the kingdom, including the southern cities of Khamis Mushait and Jizan.

The rebels did not immediately claim responsibility for any of the attacks. They frequently strike southern areas and have previously targeted Riyadh with missiles and drones.

The assaults came as Saudi Arabia hosted a Formula E championship on the outskirts of Riyadh, which state media said was attended by de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Huthis have escalated cross-border attacks on the kingdom even after the United States delisted the rebels as terrorists and stepped up efforts to de-escalate the six-year conflict.

The designation, imposed by the administration of former US president Donald Trump, had been widely criticised by aid organisations, who warned it would hamper their efforts to alleviate a humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

US President Joe Biden halted support to Saudi offensive operations in Yemen's war, which he called a "catastrophe" that "has to end". But he also reiterated US support for Saudi Arabia in defending its territory.

Alongside the cross-border attacks, the Huthis are pressing ahead with a deadly offensive to seize the Yemeni government stronghold of Marib, where some of the country's richest oil fields are found.

Years of bombings have failed to shake the rebels' hold on the capital Sanaa, and they have steadily expanded their reach in the country's north.

Yemen's grinding conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions, according to international organisations, sparking what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.