Explosions and gunfire hit Aden’s airport shortly after a plane carrying the newly formed government arrived from Saudi Arabia. Hours later, a second blast hit near the presidential palace.
At least 26 people were killed and more than 50 people were wounded in an attack on Yemen’s Aden airport on Wednesday, according to local authorities.
The incident happened shortly after a plane carrying the newly formed and internationally recognized Yemeni governmentarrived from Saudi Arabia.
Loud blasts and gunfire were heard at the airport after the plane landed in Yemen’s temporary capital, witnesses said.
Three mortar shells hit the airport hall, a local security source told Reuters news agency, while Yemeni Communication Minister Naguib al-Awg, who was on board the plane, told The Associated Press that he heard two explosions and suggested it may have been a drone attack.
Footage aired on Saudi state broadcaster Al Arabiya showed dozens of people leaving the airplane after the airport hall was hit, heavy gunfire from armored vehicles and smoke rising from the airport.
Several hours later, there was a second blast near the Maasheq presidential palace in the city, where Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik, new cabinet members and the Saudi ambassador had been rushed to after the first blast.
There we no immediate reports of casualties in the second incident.
Cabinet members safe
Members of the new government made it safely to the city’s presidential palace, according to witnesses and Saudi media reports.
Those transferred to safety were said to include Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, as well as Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Said al-Jaber.
“It would have been a disaster if the plane was bombed,” the prime minister said, insisting the plane was the target of the attack as it was supposed to land earlier.
“We and the members of the government are in the temporary capital of Aden and everyone is fine,” he tweeted from Maasheq palace. “The cowardly terrorist act that targeted Aden airport is part of the war that is being waged against the Yemeni state and its great people.
“The government in Aden is here to stay, and will carry out its mission with support from the people,” he said in a video message later.
The United Nations’ envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths said on Twitter: “This unacceptable act of violence is a tragic reminder of the importance of bringing Yemen urgently back on the path towards peace.”
The International Committee of the Red Corss said one of its staff members was killed in the first attack, and that two more were unaccounted for.
What is happening in Yemen?
Yemen’s internationally recognized government and southern separatists formed a new power-sharing cabinet on December 18. They arrived in Aden days after being sworn in Saudi Arabia.
The government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, based in the southern port of Aden, and the separatists are allies within a Saudi-backed coalition.
The coalition is at war against the Iran-aligned Houthis,who have controlled the northern capital Sana since 2014.
However, the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) declared self-rule in Aden earlier this year. Since then, the two sides have been fighting in the south, complicating efforts to forge a permanent ceasefire in the overall conflict.
The formation of the new 24-member cabinet, which was sworn in on Saturday by President Hadi, forges a joint front against the Iran-backed insurgents.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Yemeni Information Minister Moammar Al-Eryani took to Twitter to blame the Houthi rebels.
kmm,aw/dj (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa, Deutsche Welle)