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UAE warns of drone threat at defense conference opening

The United Arab Emirates warned on Sunday of the increasing threat of drone attacks, such as those by Yemeni Huthi rebels, at a defense industry conference on unmanned systems.

“We must unite to prevent the use of drones from threatening the security of civilians and destroying economic institutions,” said Mohammed bin Ahmad al-Bawardi, the UAE’s defense minister.

The Unmanned Systems Exhibition (UMEX) kicked off in Abu Dhabi, with regional and western military and industry representatives from the United States, Great Britain and France, among others.

While the event will showcase the latest high-tech drone technology, the host country warned that such weapons are getting cheaper and wider.

They are now part of the arsenal of “terrorist groups that use the systems to terrorize civilians or negatively affect the global system,” said UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence Omar bin Sultan al- olama.

“That is a challenge that requires us to… work together to ensure that we can create a shield against the use of these systems.”

The UAE is part of a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition that has been fighting in Yemen since 2015 to support the government against Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

Although the Emirates announced it was withdrawing its troops from the country in 2019, it remains an influential player supporting fighters there.

The UAE has been on high alert since a Huthi drone and missile strike on January 17 killed three oil workers in Abu Dhabi.

Authorities have since thwarted three similar attacks, including one claimed by a little-known militant group believed to have ties to pro-Iranian armed factions in Iraq.

The UAE’s staunch ally, the United States, has deployed a warship and warplanes to protect the Middle East’s financial and leisure hub, usually a safe haven in the unstable region.

Meanwhile, France said it would strengthen its defense cooperation with the UAE, mainly in securing its airspace.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthis recently launched hundreds of drones against Saudi Arabia, while Tehran is accused of being behind an attack on an Israeli ship last year.

The Israeli military said its air defenses fired at a drone that had entered the airspace from Lebanon on Friday, the second such incident in as many days.

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