AFP-JijiRIYADH (AFP-Jiji) — Saudi Arabia on Saturday intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile over Riyadh after it was launched from conflict-torn Yemen, with debris landing inside the capital’s international airport, officials said.
The missile attack claimed by Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels was the first aimed at the heart of the Saudi capital, underscoring the growing threat posed by the raging conflict in Yemen.
Residents in Riyadh reported a loud explosion near the King Khalid International Airport just north of the city after the missile was shot down, but authorities reported no major damage or loss of life.
“This evening a ballistic missile was fired from Yemeni territory towards the kingdom,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki as saying late Saturday.
“The missile was launched indiscriminately to target the civilian and populated areas. Shattered fragments from the intercepted missile landed in an uninhabited area of the airport and there were no injuries,” he added.
Huthi rebels, who fired the missile from Yemeni territory more than 1,200 kilometers from Riyadh, said they were targeting the airport, according to the Huthis’ Al-Masirah television channel.
Civil aviation authorities said the airport was functioning normally and that flights were operating as scheduled, though residents said security vehicles had closed off some roads.
Saudi forces have shot down Huthi missiles before with Patriot surface-to-air missiles purchased from the United States, but few have come so close to a major population center.
In July, a ballistic missile fired from Yemen was shot down close to Mecca, a month before the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site.