13 die in attack on Aden airport moments after new Yemen cabinet lands
At least 13 people were killed and dozens more wounded in an attack on Aden airport on Wednesday moments after a plane landed carrying a newly formed Saudi-backed cabinet for government-held parts of Yemen.
Loud blasts and gunfire were heard at the airport shortly after the plane arrived from Riyadh, witnesses said. Two security sources gave the toll of casualties. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
The cabinet members including Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik, as well as Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Said al-Jaber, were transferred safely to the city's presidential palace, the witnesses and Saudi media said.
“We and the members of the government are in the temporary capital of Aden and everyone is fine,” Maeen 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.”
Jaber tweeted: “Peace, security and stability will prevail thanks to Yemenis' strong will and their brave government.”
A local security source said three mortar shells had landed on the airport's hall.
The newly formed cabinet unites the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi with southern separatists, intended to fulfil a Saudi aim of ending a feud among Riyadh's allies.
The two groups are the main Yemeni factions in a southern-based, Saudi-backed alliance fighting against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that controls the north, including the capital Sanaa.
Live TV footage from Saudi-owned Al Arabiya channel showed dozens of people leaving the aeroplane when a first blast hit the airport's hall. Heavy gunfire from armoured vehicles followed with plumes of white and black smoke rising from the scene.
Other video showed damage to the terminal's concrete walls and smashed glass.
The southern port city of Aden has been mired in violence because of a rift between the separatists and Hadi's government, based there after being driven from the capital by the Houthis in 2014.
The separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), which seeks independence for South Yemen, declared self rule in Aden earlier this year, triggering clashes and complicating UN efforts to forge a permanent ceasefire in the overall conflict.
The Saudi-led coalition announced the new power-sharing cabinet this month after more than a year of intense Saudi mediation between the government and the separatists.
UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths condemned the attack in a statement: “I wish the cabinet strength in facing the difficult tasks ahead. This unacceptable act of violence is a tragic reminder of the importance of bringing Yemen urgently back on the path towards peace.”