A bomb-laden drone operated by Yemen’s Houthi rebels flew into a military parade on Thursday outside the southern port city of Aden, killing at least six troops from a Saudi-led coalition and their allies in a brazen attack threatening U.N.-brokered peace efforts to end the yearslong war tearing at the Arab world’s poorest nation.
The attack at the Al Anad Air Base, where American special forces once led their fight against Yemen’s Al Qaeda branch, targeted high-ranking military officials in Yemen’s internationally recognized government.
The attack also raised new questions about Iran’s alleged role in arming the Houthis with drone and ballistic missile technology, something long denied by Tehran despite researchers and U.N. experts linking the weapons to the Islamic Republic.
“Once again this proves that the Houthi criminal militias are not ready for peace and that they are exploiting truces for deployment and reinforcements,” said Information Minister Moammar Eryani, who said two senior military officials were wounded in the attack.
“This is time for the international community to stand by the legitimate government and force the militias to give up their weapons and pull out of the cities,” he added.
The Houthis immediately claimed the attack through their Al Masirah satellite news channel, saying the attack targeted “invaders and mercenaries” at the base in the southern province of Lahj, leaving “dozens of dead and wounded.”
Yemeni officials said that among the wounded were Mohammad Saleh Tamah, head of Yemen’s Intelligence Service, senior military commander Mohammad Jawas, and Lahj governor Ahmed Turki, adding that authorities were still searching for wounded among the rubble. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
Local reporter Nabil Qaiti was attending the ceremony and standing in front of the stage when he saw a drone approach and hover about 25 yards up, minutes after the parade started. Army spokesman Mohammed Naqib was delivering a speech when the drone exploded.
“It was a very strong explosion and we could feel the pressure,” Qaiti said, adding that two people standing next to him — a soldier and a journalist— were wounded. He said he saw many wounded but no dead.
“The drone was packed with explosives,” he said.
Yemen plunged into civil war in 2014 when the rebels captured Sana, and the Saudi-led coalition intervened a year later when they pushed further south.