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Bomb boat hit Saudi naval vessel, UN experts report

An unmanned boat carrying explosives hit a Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF) replenishment tanker in an attack on King Faisal Naval Base in Jeddah on 14 December 2020, according to the latest report by the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen.

It was reported at the time that the civilian tanker BW Rhine had been hit, but there was no mention of a simultaneous attack on the nearby naval base. The Yemeni rebel group Ansar Allah (Houthis), which has previously used unmanned bomb boats, did not claim responsibility.

Released on 28 January, the panel of experts' report said three water-borne improvised explosive devices (WBIEDs) were used in the Jeddah attack, with the first hitting one of the piers at the naval base soon after midnight, the second hitting the RSNF's Boraida (902) replenishment tanker a few minutes later, and the third hitting BW Rhine .

While the Saudi authorities did not provide details of the damage, the panel noted that repairs to Boraida 's hull were visible during a visit to King Faisal Naval Base in June 2021.

The panel was allowed to inspect the remnants of the WBIEDs, describing them as “basically skiffs converted for autonomous military deployment” and fitted with two 75 hp outboard motors, rather than the single engine seen on previous devices used by Ansar Allah. It was not shown their guidance and control systems but assessed they were probably programmed to sail along preset GPS co-ordinates.

A similar attack was reported on 21 April 2021, when the RSNF intercepted a bomb boat off Yanbu, further north and around 960 km from the nearest Yemeni coastline.

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