Yemen’s new government was greeted by explosions and gunfire that rocked Aden International Airport, shortly after their plane arrived in the interim capital from Riyadh today.
The attack was inadvertently broadcast live by the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news channel, which was showing members of the new government exiting the plane when the first explosion was heard from offscreen. The camera was then turned to show smoke billowing from the terminal building, with gunshots being heard in the distance.
Yemen’s Information Minister, Moammar Al-Eryani, has said that all members of the new government are safe. He accused Houthi rebels of carrying out the “cowardly terrorist attack”, which they have since denied. Photographs of apparent rocket or missile launches from Houthi-controlled Taiz towards Aden have begun circulating on social media, although their veracity has yet to be confirmed.
Al Arabiya is now reporting that an explosion heard near Aden’s presidential Maasheeq palace shortly after the attack was the downing of an explosive-laden drone by the Yemeni military. The members of the new government and the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Said al-Jaber, who was also aboard the plane, had been taken to the palace after the attack.
Yemeni news site Almasdar Online is reporting that at least 30 people have been killed and 59 wounded in the attack, citing its sources in the security and medical services. Médecins Sans Frontières Yemen has stated that it is preparing a mass casualty medical response plan at its trauma facility in Aden. As of writing, the MSF’s Aden Surgical Hospital has received 17 wounded, with 11 of them still remaining under treatment.
Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik has since uploaded a brief video on the attack, which he described as a “painful criminal incident that resulted in the death of civilians and wounding of others”. He reiterated that the government was determined to continue its duties and bring an end to the Houthi “coup”.
Martin Griffiths, UN special envoy for Yemen, “strongly” condemned the attack, giving his condolences to the next of kin of those killed in it. He said that the “unacceptable act of violence” was “a tragic reminder of the importance of bringing Yemen urgently back on the path towards peace.”
The new government had been sworn in on December 26, in Riyadh, as part of the Saudi-brokered Riyadh Agreement, a power sharing deal which intends to end a power struggle between the Saudi-backed government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC). The STC seeks an independent South Yemen, and its announcement of self-rule of Aden in late April this year led to clashes in the port city between STC forces and pro-government forces that only ended in late July, after the STC agreed to give up self rule in exchange for representation in a new government.