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Explosions hit Yemen airport moments after plane carrying government officials arrives

At least 13 people died in the blast, but officials said all ministers are reported to be unharmed.

PA-57330459 (1) People run from the scene after the explosion. Source: PA Images

AT LEAST 13 people have died in an explosion which rocked Yemen’s Aden airport moments after a new unity government flew in, in what some officials described as a “cowardly” attack by Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

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 to rise.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it was preparing a “mass casualty medical response plan”.

As smoke billowed out of the airport terminal from an initial blast, with debris strewn across the area and people rushing to tend to the wounded, a second explosion took place.

Video footage shot by AFP 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.

Sporadic gunfire

It was not immediately clear what had caused the explosions.

Sporadic gunfire was heard soon after.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney condemned the attack as ‘cowardly’, offering Ireland’s “condolences to those who have lost loved ones”.

“The terrible conflict in Yemen has cost thousands of lives, and created the world’s worst humanitarian disaster,” he said.

“The return of the Yemeni government to Aden is an important step, and we urge all parties to the conflict to immediately cease hostilities, and engage urgently and seriously with the UN-led political process. The people of Yemen have suffered for too long, and we call on all parties to work resolutely towards a peaceful settlement.”

Yemen’s internationally recognised government and southern separatists formed a power-sharing cabinet on December 18, forging a joint front against the Huthi rebels who have seized the capital Sanaa and much of the north.

Both Yemeni Information Minister Moammar Al-Eryani and Prime Minister Moeen Abdulmalik Saeed said that all the members of the government were safe.

“We assure our great people that members of the government are fine, and we assure you that the cowardly terrorist attack by the Iran-supported Huthi militia will not deter us from carrying out our patriotic duty,” Eryani said on Twitter.

Saeed tweeted that the “terrorist attack… was part of the war waged against Yemen and its people”, but stopped short of accusing the Huthi insurgents.

yemen A damaged portion of the airport. Source: PA Images

UN envoy Martin Griffiths condemned the attack on Twitter, calling it an “unacceptable act of violence”.

“I wish the cabinet strength in facing the difficult tasks ahead,” he said. “This unacceptable act of violence is a tragic reminder of the importance of bringing Yemen urgently back on the path towards peace.”

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The cabinet members arrived in Aden days after being sworn in by Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition against the insurgents.

Hadi fled to the Saudi-capital Riyadh after Sanaa fell to the Huthis in 2014.

Humanitarian disaster

Tens of thousands, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in Yemen’s grinding five-year war, which has triggered what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

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

While all oppose Huthi rebels, deep divisions have grown between the forces, and the Riyadh-sponsored push to form the unity government was designed to mend rifts.

Saudi Arabia has been encouraging the unity government to quell the “war within a civil war” and to bolster the coalition against the Huthis, who are poised to seize the key town of Marib, the last government stronghold in the north.

© – AFP, 2020

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