Yemen airport blasts kill 26 as government plane arrives

ADEN (AFP) – At least 26 people were killed when explosions rocked Yemen’s Aden airport moments after a new unity government flew in, in what some officials charged was a “cowardly” attack by Huthi rebels.

Although all government ministers were reported to be unharmed in Wednesday’s attack, more than 50 people were wounded, medical and government sources told AFP in the southern city, with the casualty toll feared likely to rise.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said one of its employees was among those confirmed dead, with another three wounded. “The Yemeni people have endured a terrible amount of suffering over the last five years. A day like this adds even more grief,” said ICRC Operations Director Dominik Stillhart.

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 shows what appears to be a missile striking the airport apron, which moments before had been packed with crowds, and exploding into a ball of intense flames. 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 (UN) has called the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

People walk away from the runway following an explosion at the airport in Aden, Yemen, shortly after a plane carrying the newly formed Cabinet landed. PHOTO: AP

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 Sanaa and much of the country’s north.

Information Minister Moammar al-Eryani said all members of the new government had escaped unharmed from the blast, which he blamed on the Huthi rebels.

“We assure you that the cowardly terrorist attack by the Huthi militia will not deter us from carrying out our patriotic duty,” Eryani tweeted. Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak also blamed the rebels but President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi was more circumspect.

“The terrorist acts perpetrated by the Huthi militia and extremist terrorist groups will not discourage the legitimate government from exercising their duties,” Hadi said, without specifying which he held responsible for the airport attack.