Blast at Yemen’s Aden airport kills 25, wounds 110, officials say
Explosions struck the airport in the southern Yemeni city of Aden on Wednesday, shortly after a plane carrying the newly formed Cabinet landed there, security officials said. At least 25 people were killed and 110 were wounded.
A large explosion struck the airport in the southern Yemeni city of Aden on Wednesday, shortly after a plane carrying the newly formed Cabinet landed there, security officials said. At least 25 people were killed and 110 were wounded in the attack.
Yemen’s internationally recognized government said Iran-backed Houthi rebels fired four ballistic missiles at the airport. Rebel officials did not answer calls from the Associated Press seeking comment. No one on the government plane was hurt.
Officials later reported another explosion close to a palace in the city where the Cabinet members had been transferred after the airport attack. The Saudi-led coalition later shot down a bomb-laden drone that attempted to target the palace, according to the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV channel.
The Cabinet reshuffle was seen as a major step toward closing a dangerous rift between the government of embattled Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, and southern separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates. Hadi’s government and the separatists are nominal allies in Yemen’s years-long civil war that pits the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed military coalition against the Houthis, who control most of northern Yemen as well as the country’s capital, Sana.
Associated Press video from the scene at the airport showed members of the government delegation disembarking as the blast shook the grounds. Many ministers rushed back inside the plane or ran down the stairs, seeking shelter.
Thick smoke rose into the air near the terminal building.
Yemen’s communication minister, Naguib Awg, was on the government plane and told the Associated Press that he heard two explosions and suggested they were drone attacks. Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed and the others were quickly whisked away from the airport to the Mashiq Palace.
“It would have been a disaster if the plane was bombed,” he said, insisting that the plane was the target of the attack as it was supposed to have landed earlier.
The prime minister tweeted that he and his Cabinet were safe and unhurt. He called the explosions a “cowardly terrorist act” that was part of the war on “the Yemeni state and our great people.”
Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak blamed Houthi rebels for the attacks without offering evidence. His ministry said in a statement later that the rebels fired four ballistic missiles at the airport and launched drone attacks at the palace, the Cabinet’s headquarters. They did not provide evidence.
Health Minister Qasem Buhaibuh said in a tweet that the attack at the airport killed least 25 people and wounded 110 others, suggesting the death toll could increase further because some of the wounds were serious.
Images shared on social media from the scene showed rubble and broken glass strewn about near the airport building and at least two bodies, one of them charred, lying on the ground. In another image, a man was trying to help another man, whose clothes were torn, to get up from the ground.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said three of its workers were killed in the airport blast: two Yemeni nationals and a Rwandan. Three other workers were wounded. Red Cross workers were at the airport transiting with other civilians when the blast took place, it said.
“This is a tragic day for the ICRC and for the people of Yemen,” said Dominik Stillhart, the Red Cross’ director of operations.
Yemeni Belqees television said its reporter Adeeb Ganabi was also killed in the airport blast. Information Minister Moammar Eryani said at least 10 other journalists were wounded.
A statement from Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said the “Secretary-General condemns the deplorable attack on Aden airport shortly after the arrival of the newly formed Yemeni Cabinet, which killed and wounded dozens of people.”
Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirates’ minister of state for foreign affairs, said the attack on Aden’s airport was meant to destroy the power-sharing deal between Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the southern separatists.
Christopher Henzel, U.S. ambassador in Yemen, said the U.S. condemned the attacks in Aden. “We stand with the Yemeni people as they strive for peace, and we support the new Yemeni Government as it works towards a better future for all Yemenis,” he said.
Egypt, Jordan and other Arab and Western nations also condemned the airport attack.
The Yemeni ministers were returning to Aden after being sworn in last week as part of a reshuffle after a deal with rival southern separatists. War-torn Yemen’s internationally recognized government has worked mostly from self-imposed exile in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital.
The Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Jaber, described the attack as a “cowardly terrorist act targeting the Yemeni people, their security and stability.”
Despite “the disappointment and confusion caused by those who create death and destruction,” the peace agreement between the government and southern separatists “will go forward,” he said.
Hadi, in exile in Saudi Arabia, announced the Cabinet reshuffle this month.
Naming a new government was part of a power-sharing deal between the Saudi-backed Hadi and the Emirati-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council, an umbrella group of militias seeking to restore an independent southern Yemen, which existed from 1967 until unification in 1990.
Last year, the Houthis fired a missile at a military parade of newly graduated fighters of a militia loyal to the Emirates at a military base in Aden, killing dozens.
Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, has been engulfed in civil war since 2014, when the Shiite Houthi rebels overran the north and Sana. The following year, a Saudi-led military coalition intervened to wage war on the Houthis and restore Hadi’s government to power.
The war has killed more than 112,000, including thousands of civilians, and has resulted in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
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