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UAE warns of drone threat as it opens defence conference

ABU DHABI (AFP) – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) warned yesterday of the rising threat of drone attacks, such as those launched against it by Yemen’s Huthi rebels, at a defence industry conference on unmanned systems.

“We have to unite to prevent the use of drones from threatening civilian safety and destroying economic institutions,” said UAE Minister of State for Defence Affairs Mohammed bin Ahmad al-Bawardi.

The Unmanned Systems Exhibition (UMEX) kicked off in Abu Dhabi, with regional and Western military and industry representatives, including from the United States (US), Britain and France.

While the event will showcase the latest in high-tech drone technology, the host country warned that such weapons are becoming cheaper and more widespread.

They are now part of the arsenals of “terrorist groups that use the systems to terrorise civilians or to impact the global system in a negative way”, said the UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence Omar bin Sultan al-Olama.

Drones on display at an airshow in Dubai. PHOTO: AFP

“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 military coalition that has been fighting in Yemen since 2015 to support the government against Huthi rebels.

While the Emirates announced it withdrew its troops from the country in 2019, it remains an influential player, backing fighters there.

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

Authorities have since thwarted three similar attacks.

Meanwhile, France said it would bolster its defence cooperation with the UAE, mostly in securing its air space.


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