The war in Yemen took a bizarre turn today when large explosions and gunfire rocked Aden Airport as the country’s newly appointed government arrived by plane from Saudi Arabia, The Independent reported.
Health minister Qasem Buhaibuh said the attacks had killed at least 26 people wounded 60 others, suggesting the death toll could increase further.
Salem Al-Shabhi, a senior health official in Aden, told The Independent the majority of those injured were in a critical condition.
Among those killed was a staff member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the humanitarian organization said on Twitter.
An initial first explosion was caught live on air by Al-Hadath TV, which captured plumes of smoke billowing out of the terminal as the officials were disembarking from the plane, The Independent reported.
Hundreds of panicked onlookers, security forces and officials were then seen scrambling for safety amid the carnage.
It was followed by several gunshots and smaller explosions, with some media outlets reporting mortar shells and drones had hit the building.
The cabinet members, including Maeen Abdulmalik, the prime minister, were transferred safely to the city’s presidential palace, The Indepedent reported.
Abdulmalik late tweeted: “We and the members of the government are in the temporary capital of Aden and everyone is fine.
“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.”
Hamza al-Kamaly, Yemen’s deputy minister of youth and sports, told The Independent the deputy transport minister was injured as well as other officials.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack but Al-Kamali said the authorities believed it was perpetrated by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who control swathes of northern Yemen and have been embroiled in a five-year war, The Independent reported.
The new Yemeni foreign minister, Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak, who was unharmed in the explosion, also accused the Houthis of being behind the attack.
“What happened will not scare us at all, it gave us more determination to move on,” he told The Independent by phone.
A senior airport security official briefly video-called The Independent from the airport where heavily armed security officers were seen taking cover while apparently looking for the perpetrators of the attack.
Images shared with The Independent showed bodies, some of them charred, strewn across the ground alongside shattered glass and mangled strips of metal from the destroyed building.
The attack happened as the newly formed cabinet was returning to Yemen following a deal uniting the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi with the rival southern separatists, hailing an end to one of the multiple conflicts currently devastating Yemen.
The Southern Transitional Council seeks independence for south Yemen and, despite being allied with the government against the Houthis, declared self-rule in Aden earlier this year, triggering violent clashes, The Independent reported.
The reshuffle was supposed to be one step towards ending that rift.
Yemen has been devastated by a ruinous civil war that erupted when the Iran-backed Houthis swept control of the country forcing the Hadi administration to flee.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies launched a bombing campaign in March that year to reinstate Hadi, but five years on the fighting shows no sign of ending.
Instead it has sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with the United Nations saying 24 million people, over 80 per cent of the population, rely on aid to survive.
The World Food Program said that by the middle of next year over 16 million people, half the population, will be facing crisis levels of food insecurity while the number of those experiencing famine-like conditions could nearly triple.