Security

Houthis accused of attacking Aden airport as new unity government arrives

By Al-Mashareq and AFP

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A video grab shows the moment an ordnance hit the airport in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden on December 30, 2020, shortly after the arrival of a plane carrying members of a new unity government. [AFPTV/AFP]

Explosions rocked Yemen's Aden airport on Wednesday (December 30), killing at least 26 people, shortly after the arrival of a plane carrying members of a new unity government.

Although all government ministers were reported to be unharmed, more than 50 people were wounded, medical and government sources told AFP in the southern city, with the casualty toll feared likely to rise.

"At least two explosions were heard as the cabinet members were leaving the aircraft," an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

Video footage appears to show missile-like ordnance striking the airport apron -- that moments before had been packed with crowds -- and exploding into a ball of intense flames.

It was not immediately clear what had caused the explosions.

Sporadic gunfire was heard soon after.

Yemen's internationally recognised government and southern separatists formed a new power-sharing cabinet on December 18, and arrived in the southern city of Aden on Wednesday, days after being sworn in.

One week earlier, on December 11, both sides had begun a reciprocal withdrawal of forces in Abyan province under the terms of the power-sharing agreement signed in Riyadh.

The new government was formed under the auspices of Riyadh, which leads a military coalition against the Houthis, who took control of the capital Sanaa in 2014.

Aden has been the temporary capital of Yemen since 2015.

The attack comes in the run-up to the one-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, whose support for the Houthis has brought Yemen to the brink of economic and political collapse.

Official blames Houthis

In a tweet, Prime Minister Moeen Abdul Malik, who was one of the government officials on the plane, said: "The cowardly terrorist act that targeted Aden airport is part of the war being waged against the Yemeni state and our great people, and it will only increase our insistence on fulfilling our duties until the coup is ended."

While no side has claimed responsibility for the attack, Minister of Information Muammar al-Eryani accused the Houthis of targeting the airport.

"We confirm that the attacks on Aden airport by the Houthi militia backed by Iran won't stop us to do our national tasks and our bloods and souls won't be more expensive than bloods of Yemenis," he said in a tweet.

The formation of the new 24-member cabinet, which was sworn in on Saturday in Saudi Arabia by Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, forges a joint front against the insurgents who have seized much of the north.

Hadi has lived in the Saudi capital Riyadh since Sanaa fell to the Houthis.

The new government includes ministers loyal to Hadi and supporters of the secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC), as well as other parties.

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