AP . Wed, December 30, 2020, 12:24 PM GMT+1
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A large explosion struck the airport in the southern Yemeni city of Aden on Wednesday, shortly before a plane carrying the newly formed Cabinet landed there, security officials said. Initial reports said at least four people were killed and dozens were wounded.
The source of the blast was not immediately clear and no group claimed responsibility for the explosion.
No one on the government plane was hurt but officials at the scene said they saw bodies lying on the tarmac and elsewhere at the airport. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Yemeni Communication Minister Naguib al-Awg, who was also on the government plane, told The Associated Press that he heard two explosions, suggesting they were drone attacks. Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed and the others were quickly whisked away from the airport to the Mashiq Palace in the city.
“It would have been a disaster if the plane was bombed,” he said, insisting the plane was the target of the attack as it was supposed to land earlier.
Mohammed al-Roubid, deputy head of Aden’s health office, told the AP that at least four people were killed in the explosion. He said dozens were wounded but did not elaborate.
Images shared on social media from the scene showed rubble and broken glass strewn about near the airport building and at least two lifeless bodies, one of them charred, lying on the ground. In another image, a man was trying to help another man whose clothes were torn to get up from the ground.
The ministers were returning to Aden after being sworn in last week as part of a reshuffle following a deal with rival southern separatists. Yemen’s internationally recognized government has worked mostly from self-imposed exile in the Saudi capital of Riyadh during the country’s years-long civil war.
Yemen’s embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in exile in Saudi Arabia, announced a Cabinet reshuffle earlier this month.
The reshuffle was seen as a major step toward closing a dangerous rift between Hadi’s government and southern separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates. The Saudi-backed government is at war with with Iran-allied Houthi rebels, who control most of northern Yemen as well as the country’s capital, Sanaa.
Last year, the Houthis fired a missile at a military parade of newly graduated fighters of a militia loyal to the UAE at a military base in Aden, killing dozens.
Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, has been engulfed in civil war since 2014, when the Shiite Houthi rebels overran the north and Sanaa. The following year, a Saudi-led military coalition intervened to wage war on the Houthis and restore Hadi’s government to power.
The war has killed more than 112,000, including thousands of civilians. The conflict also resulted in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.