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Yemeni Houthi drones target oil port in first attack since truce expired

Houthis say attack was to prevent government from using al-Dhaba terminal for oil exports
A Houthi fighter is deployed during a ceremony marking the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on 8 October (AFP)

Yemen's Houthi rebels attacked a southern oil port on Friday, in the first operation the group has claimed since a truce between the warring sides ended earlier this month.

The attack targeted a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker, the Nissos Kea, at the port of Ash Shihr, about 550km south of the Houthi-held capital Sanaa, but did not strike it, a Greek company that owns the vessel said.

Okeanis Eco Tankers said that while the tanker was at the buoy for loading, "there were two drone-driven explosions in close proximity", prompting it to leave the port and head out to sea.

The attack did not cause any casualties or damage.

The government warned that it was keeping "all options" on the table in response to the attack and that it could affect any further peace talks.

It is the first announced attack by the Houthis, who control the capital and most of northern Yemen, since the end of a six-month truce between Yemen's warring parties on 2 October.

The Houthis said in a statement they had carried out a "minor warning strike" on Friday on the government-controlled al-Dhaba port in the eastern province of Hadramaut to prevent the government from using it for oil exports.

Yemen's truce between the Houthi movement and forces loyal to the Yemeni government was brokered in April and immediately raised hope that a negotiated route out of the eight-year conflict could be found. Initially agreed for two months, the deal was renewed twice.

The United Nations estimates that around 380,000 people have died as a result of the war, which in 2015 drew in a Saudi-led coalition to prop up the internationally recognised government.

The Houthis have been demanding that the government pay the salaries of employees and retired soldiers in the areas under their control.

The rebels said on Friday that the operation was launched "to prevent the continuation of the widespread looting of oil wealth and the failure to allocate it to serve the people... and pay the salaries of the employees".

Efforts by the UN envoy to Yemen to revive the six-month truce ended in stalemate early this month, as the Yemeni government and the Houthis failed to reach an agreement to extend it.

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