At least 10 people were killed on Wednesday when explosions struck Aden Airport in Yemen shortly after a new unity government flown in. Officials said it was a “cowardly” attack by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
“Dozens” more people were injured, a medical source told AFP, although all government ministers were reported unharmed.
Clouds of smoke billowed from the airport building in the southern city as debris lay scattered over the area and people tended to the wounded, as the footage on the Saudi television channel Al-Hadath showed.
“At least two explosions were heard when the cabinet members got off the plane,” said a local AFP correspondent.
Crowds that had gathered on the airport apron to greet the new government fled in fear.
Soon afterwards a sporadic gunfire could be heard.
It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the explosions.
Yemen’s internationally recognized government and southern separatists formed a power-sharing cabinet on December 18 that forged a common front against the Houthi rebels who have conquered the capital Sanaa and much of the north.
Yemeni Information Minister Moammar Al-Eryani said that all members of the government were safe.
“We assure our great people that the members of the government are fine and we assure you that the cowardly terrorist attack by the Iran-backed Houthi militia will not stop us from fulfilling our patriotic duty,” he said on Twitter.
The cabinet members arrived in Aden days after the swearing-in ceremony by Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in Saudi Arabia, who leads a military coalition against the insurgents.
Hadi fled to the Saudi capital Riyadh after Sanaa fell to the Houthis in 2014.
Tens of thousands, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in Yemen’s five-year war that sparked what the United Nations has called the world‘s worst humanitarian catastrophe.
The new government consists of ministers who are loyal to Hadi and supporters of the secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC) and other parties.
Prime Minister Main Said has retained his position in the new government while changes have taken place in several ministries, including the Foreign Ministry.
While everyone is against Houthi rebels, divisions between the armed forces have grown and the Riyadh-sponsored drive to form the unity government aimed to repair rifts.
Saudi Arabia has encouraged the unity government to suppress the “war within a civil war” and to strengthen the coalition against the Houthis who are ready to conquer the key city of Marib, the last government stronghold in the north.
In recent months, the rebels have stepped up attacks on Saudi Arabia – including its critical oil infrastructure – in retaliation for the military campaign led by Riyadh.
Yemen also continues to host a significant jihadist presence, including al-Qaeda and militants loyal to the Islamic state group, despite two decades of air and drone strikes by the United States.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which the US considers to be the most dangerous branch of the terrorist group, has thrived in the chaos of the civil war in Yemen between pro-government forces and the Houthi rebels.
It has carried out operations against both the Houthis and government forces.
The unity government is formed one month before the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden, who was critical of Saudi Arabia during his election campaign amid the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen since Riyadh’s intervention in the conflict in 2015.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)