Saudi Arabia says it intercepts missile close to capital

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s air defense forces intercepted a ballistic missile fired from warring Yemen over the capital Riyadh on Saturday, state news agencies reported.

The missile was brought down near King Khaled Airport on the northern outskirts of the city and did not cause any casualties, said Saudi state-owned Al Ekhbariya TV.

Rocket fragments fell near the airport grounds, but air traffic carried on normally, the Saudi civil aviation authority said on its official Twitter account.

Saudi Arabia is part of a coalition carrying out bombings of the Iran-allied armed Houthi movement in Yemen which has taken over the capital Sanaa and other parts of the country during its civil war.

Saudi Arabia, which supports the internationally-recognized Yemeni government based in Aden, has frequently intercepted missiles fired from its neighbor.

Residents of northern Riyadh reported hearing a single deafening explosion that rattled windows around 20:20 local time, followed by rumbling and other sounds.

“We heard an enormous loud boom and went outside, then heard a low rumbling noise like thunder and six to 12 smaller explosions,” one resident told Reuters.

The missile was fired into Saudi territory from Yemen at 20:00 local time, the spokesman of a Saudi-led military coalition said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

Saba News, which is run by the Houthi rebels, reported that the missile was a Burkan H2 and that the airport had been the target.

U.S. President Donald Trump commented on the missile interception during comments on U.S. military hardware on Sunday.

“A shot was just taken by Iran, in my opinion, at Saudi Arabia...and our system knocked the missile out of the air. Nobody makes what we make, and now we’re seeing it all over the world,” he told reporters on Air Force One en route to Tokyo.

Saudi Arabia and its allies, which receive logistical and intelligence help from the United States, accuse the Houthis of being a proxy of Iran.

The Saudi-led coalition has launched thousands of air strikes against the Houthis. On Wednesday, witnesses said one such strike killed 26 people at a hotel and adjoining market in northern Yemen, although the coalition said on Saturday it had hit a legitimate target.

The Houthi and allied forces loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh have fired dozens of missiles into Saudi territory over the course of a 2-1/2 year war, including a ballistic missile shot down near Mecca in July.

The conflict has led to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and killed at least 10,000 people.

Reporting by Mostafa Hashem, Reem Shamseddine, Katie Paul and Steve Holland, Writing by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Hugh Lawson & Shri Navaratnam