Yemen: 26 dead in explosions on arrival of union government in Aden

Several explosions killed at least 26 and more than 50 injured on Wednesday at Aden airport, the temporary capital of Yemen at war, where a plane carrying the new union government had just landed.

According to one AFP correspondent, at least two explosions occurred when the aircraft landed and the officials began to exit the aircraft.

Medical sources reported to AFP of at least 26 deaths and more than 50 injured in a new toll.

Explosion sounds and shots sounded before a thick black smoke sprang out of an airport building as debris was projected around, causing panic among those present, according to images broadcast by Saudi Al-Hadath television.

โ€œWe are fine,โ€ said the new Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak.

โ€” Call for an investigation โ€”

Government spokesman Rajeh Badi called for an โ€œinternational investigation into this criminal actโ€.

Civilians, security guards and local officials are among the victims but all government members are โ€œdoing wellโ€, he told AFP.

The plane was arriving from Ryadh where the Yemeni government had exiled after Houthis rebels hit the capital Sanaa in September 2014 and seized vast parts of the country, triggering a deadly war. Aden had then become the temporary capital of the country.

Saudi Arabia took the lead in March 2015 of a coalition to help the government fight against rebels, backed by Iran, its regional rival.

But the anti-Houthis front bringing together pro-government forces and separatists from the South โ€” independent before its merger with the North in 1990 โ€” has cracked in recent years.

To tighten the ranks, Ryadh negotiated a power-sharing agreement in the South and has been trying for more than a year to form a new union government to maintain coalition unity against the Houthis, about to take control of Marib, the governments last stronghold in the north.

A union government was formed on 18 December, under the aegis of Saudi Arabia.

Information Minister Muammar al-Iryani has accused Houthis rebels on Twitter of carrying out this โ€œterrorist attackโ€.

Prime Minister Maรฏn Said also referred to a โ€œcowardly terrorist actโ€, without naming the Houthis. โ€œThis will only increase our determination to fulfill our duty,โ€ he tweeted.

โ€” โ€œUnacceptableโ€ โ€”

Houthis rebels, as well as Al-Qaeda and ISIS jihadist groups, have in the past carried out attacks against the Yemeni government and its supporters.

The UN envoy in Yemen, Martin Griffiths, condemned an โ€œunacceptable act of violenceโ€ that โ€œkilled and injured several innocent civiliansโ€.

This is โ€œa tragic reminder of the importance of urgently putting Yemen back on the road to peace,โ€ he said on Twitter.

For Michael Aron, the British ambassador to Yemen, this is โ€œa despicable attempt to cause carnage, chaos and suffering as the Yemenis chose to move forward together.โ€

The war in Yemen has plunged this country, the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula, into the worlds worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN, with a population on the brink of famine and threatened by epidemics.

The formation of the new government and its arrival in Aden (south) came three weeks before the inauguration of US president-elect Joe Biden.

The future White House host has not failed to criticize Saudi Arabia, amid recurring controversies over human rights violations in the Saudi kingdom and the humanitarian disaster in Yemen.