ISTANBUL – After residents of the capital of Saudi Arabia listened to rare gunfire on Saturday night, followed by videos of heavy shootings circulating on the Internet, the Saudi government said it had an explanation: "Someone has completed a recreational drone without permission, and security forces had shot it down.
A government statement said guards were watching the drone at a checkpoint in Riyadh, the capital, just before 8 pm in the neighborhood of Al-Khozama, where a palace of King Salman, the Saudi monarch, is located. The security forces acted "on their instructions," the statement said.
"It was a small remotely controlled toy airplane that came into the limited airspace and was shot down immediately," said a Saudi official who wanted to remain anonymous because he was not allowed to speak to the media.
A retired government official living in the neighborhood said he heard shots, but it only took a short time. "It might take two or three minutes," he said, refusing to be called. "It's quiet now," he added.
The Saudi security forces are on high alert because of frequent attacks from Yemen involving a coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
A Yemeni rebel group has shot down dozens of ballistic missiles in Saudi cities and towns in recent years, including in the direction of Riyadh. In March, rocket fragments crashed into a house in Riyadh and killed an Egyptian construction worker.
The Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, have also led armed drone attacks on the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen and on Saudi territory.
Saudi Arabia is also in the midst of a sweeping social and economic transformation carried out by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Changes included easing social restrictions ̵
Videos allegedly recorded on Saturday in Riyadh and shared on social media made the sounds of heavy barrages heard. The authenticity of the videos could not be confirmed independently.
A Saudi official told Reuters that King Salman was not in his palace when the shootings took place.
Morris contributed from Amman, Jordan.