Two missile attacks in a week on the United Arab Emirates have left some residents feeling on edge about security for the first time in the Gulf state’s capital Abu Dhabi, home to high rise towers, world-class museums and a Formula One race track.
The UAE, a business safe haven that had seen none of the violence suffered by some other Arab countries, was shaken by a Jan. 17 raid by Yemen’s Houthi movement that killed three people in Abu Dhabi, the first such confirmed attack on its soil.
On Monday, residents were awoken by the sounds of loud blasts over the coastal capital in the early hours of the morning as the UAE intercepted another strike.
“Definitely we are nervous”, South African sonographer Shaynaaz Govinda, 31, who has lived in the country for three years, told Reuters at an Abu Dhabi shopping centre on Monday.
“But we have full faith in the UAE leaders … I’m sure they have a good defence system,” she said.
The UAE, which prides itself on its safety and stability and until recently rarely discussed its security publicly, said the latest attack was thwarted and that there were no casualties.
Sales and marketing executive Randa Rizk, a 35-year-old Egyptian, said she was feeling “a little worried” but also voiced confidence in the government’s ability to continue providing a safe country for her family and others to live in.
A majority of those living in the UAE, a leading global travel hub, tourism destination and commercial, are foreigners with many residing in oil-rich Abu Dhabi.
There was no apparent heightened level of security in Abu Dhabi on Monday, with residents seemingly moving around freely.
“Life is normal,” said 57-year-old Indian expatriate Nilanjan Sen, who has lived in the UAE for past 22 years.
Taking to Twitter, prominent Emirati political analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdulla told his over 200,000 followers that the UAE is “confident in its defences and capabilities and strives for the security of its citizens and residents”.
While Abu Dhabi holds the country’s oil wealth, neighbouring Dubai has an economy focused on tourism and international business, and is more vulnerable to shocks.
“This is worrying but honestly I don’t see a lot of ground level discussion on this,” said an analyst at a bank in Dubai who declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to media.
Khaled Majeed, fund manager at SAM Capital in London, said the attacks so far seemed to be more of a warning to the UAE, which is backing Yemeni forces who recently joined fighting against the Houthis in two energy producing provinces.
But some residents worry about further escalations.
“I moved here thinking there would be less chaos,” said American medical student Tahlia Rivera, 19, “Overall I feel safe but I don’t know how it will escalate.”