At least 26 people have been killed and more than 50 injured after an attack on the airport in the Yemeni city of Aden, which appeared targeted at a plane carrying the newly formed government.
Loud explosions and gunfire were heard on Wednesday afternoon as members of Yemen’s cabinet disembarked. Clouds of smoke billowed from the terminal building, with initial reports suggesting the blasts had been caused by mortar shelling.
Images shared on social media showed blood, rubble and broken glass strewn near the airport building and at least two bodies, one of them charred, on the ground. In another image a man was seen trying to help up another whose clothes were torn.
The attack marks a grim start for Yemen’s unity government sworn in last week in Saudi Arabia. The reshuffle was designed to mend the dangerous rift between the internationally recognised government led by the president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), the organisation in charge of Aden.
Damage to the airport could leave Yemen with only one fully functioning airport for 28 million people in the blockaded country, at Seiyun.
Naguib al-Awg, Yemen’s communication minister, who was on the government plane, told Associated Press he heard two explosions and suggested they were drone attacks.
It would have been a disaster if the plane was bombed,” he said, insisting the plane had been the target of the attack as it was supposed to have landed earlier.
The cabinet members, including the prime minister, Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, and the Saudi ambassador, Mohammed Said al-Jaber, were transferred safely to the interim capital’s presidential palace, Saudi media reported.
It was not immediately clear which of Yemen’s warring parties, among them al-Qaida, was responsible for the attack.
The information minister, Moammer al-Eryani, claimed, in a post on Twitter, that the Houthis were behind Wednesday’s attack, while Saeed called it a “cowardly terrorist act” but refrained from blaming the rebels.
He said: “The attack … is part of the war being waged against the Yemeni state and our great people, and it will only increase our determination to … restore the state and stability.