AL-MUKALLA: Terrorists declared war on Yemen’s fledgling democratic government on Wednesday with a deadly attack on Aden airport as members of the new administration flew in from Riyadh.
At least 27 people were killed and 40 injured in a series of explosions just outside the airport’s main hall while the aircraft’s passengers were disembarking.
A local security source said the building was hit by three mortar shells, and Yemen's information minister Muammar Al-Eryani accused Iran-backed Houthi militias of carrying out the attack.
The explosions were followed by heavy gunfire from armored vehicles as plumes of smoke and dust rose from the scene.
The attack took place as the airport hall was packed with local officials and well-wishers waiting to greet the new government. “Most of the dead and wounded are civilians,” a local health official told Arab News.
The cabinet members, including Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik, were taken to safety at the city’s Maasheq presidential palace, along with the Saudi Ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al-Jaber.
Later on Wednesday, Arab coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said it shot down an explosive drone, suspected to be from the Houthi militia, which was targeting the palace.
“We and the members of the government are in the temporary capital of Aden and everyone is fine,” Maeen tweeted from the 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.
“It will only increase our determination to fulfill our duties until the coup is ended and the state and stability are restored.”
The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen announced the new power-sharing cabinet this month after more than a year of intense Saudi mediation between the government and the separatist Southern Transitional Council.
The government returned to Aden to put into place the final components of the Riyadh Agreement and end months of political wrangling and violence.
Al-Jaber said the terrorists were seeking to destroy the positive atmosphere created by the formation of the new government and the full implementation of the Riyadh Agreement. “Targeting the Yemeni government upon its arrival at Aden airport is a cowardly terrorist act targeting all the Yemeni people, their security, stability and their daily life,” he said. “It confirms the extent of disappointment and confusion that the creators of death and destruction have reached as a result of the success of the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement and the formation of the Yemeni government and starting its duties to serve the Yemeni people.”
UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths also condemned the attack. “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 toward peace."
Michael Aron, the UN ambassador to Yemen, said: “I condemn the cowardly attack on Aden airport timed to coincide with the arrival of the new government, a despicable attempt to cause carnage and chaos and bring suffering when Yemenis had chosen to move forward together. My thoughts are with the families of those killed and injured.”
Both the secretary of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Kuwaiti foreign ministry also condemed the attack, while, Emirati minister Anwar Gargash said the attack on the airport was an attack on the “prospects for peace and stability in Yemen.”