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At Least 23 Dead in Rocket Attack on Yemen Airport

[Aden]A violent explosion caused by three missiles rocked Aden International Airport at noon on Wednesday.

A violent explosion caused by three missiles rocked Aden International Airport at noon on Wednesday.

At least 23 people are dead and 84 injured, all of them civilians and journalists, according to Walid Turkie, an emergency room doctor in Al-Buraihi Hospital in Aden, as of 11:44 p.m. on Wednesday. “Victims are still arriving to [Al-Buraihi] Hospital, and to Al-Jumhoori Hospital and to Medicine Sans Frontières hospital and other hospitals. The toll is likely to increase,” Turkie said.

Ibrahim Al-Qadhi, an eyewitness who works at a local newspaper, told The Media Line: “The attack was launched by three missiles based on the sounds of the explosions and preliminary photos of the incident. The explosions were followed by gunfire inside the airport. We were inside the main hall, waiting for a press conference with the government before we heard the explosions in the internal hall of the airport and around it.”

Al-Qadhi said, based on what he called reliable information, that the manager of Al-Mansoura Prison in Aden was injured in the attack, as was Nasser Sharif, deputy minister of transportation; Bader Muaref, deputy governor of Aden; and Yara Khawajah, the ICRC in Yemen spokesperson. Other injuries include a large group of media professionals who were on site to cover the event.

There is no confirmed information about casualties to members of the new government. Al-Qadhi said that there is a security lockdown around the airplane’s vicinity and that the government members were moved to a different location.

It was a security mistake to receive the cabinet in this manner

The Media Line, through exclusive sources, has learned that Dr. Yasmain Al-Awadhi, deputy minister of public works and roads for the housing sector in the Labor Ministry, was killed, and that Mohammed Al-Ameer, deputy minister of the interior; Muneer Al-Wajeeh, deputy minister of youth and sports; and Dr. Mutaeb Ba Ziyad, office manager of the IRG’s prime minister, were injured.

Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed tweeted after the explosion that the members of the government are fine and that the terrorist attack that targeted the airport is part of the “war on the state of Yemen.” Yemen’s Minister of Information Moammar Al-Eryani accused the Ansar Allah group, known as the Houthis, of perpetrating the attacks against the airport.

Muhammad al-Bukhaiti, a Houthi official, rejected the accusations, describing them as a “broken record.” He said that the accusation is an attempt to involve the Ansar Allah group in the conflict between the Saudi-backed forces and southern separatists that make up the new government coalition, and that the incident is just a “settlement of accounts” due to their conflict.

Meanwhile, the deputy head of the Southern Translational Council (STC), Hani Bin Buraik, said that: “It would be hasty to accuse the Houthis of Aden [of perpetrating the] explosions.”

A security professional charged with protecting the Aden airport during the reception of the IRG’s cabinet, told The Media Line that: “Up to this moment, there is no specific information about how the attack was carried out and its final toll.”

As for the Houthis’ involvement in the attack, he added that “we cannot say that with certainty. We are working to assess the damage and follow up with the investigations which will give us many answers later on.”

“The security measures were not enough, especially due to the civilian and media attendance inside and around the airport. It was a security mistake to receive the cabinet in this manner,” he said.

The security professional, who asked not to be unnamed, also added that most of the victims are airport staff, journalists and civilians. There are also injuries among some state leaders. He said that no minister or official in the new cabinet was harmed in the attack.

The Yemeni government had announced the formation of a new cabinet on December 18, part of an agreement struck in Riyadh to end the political and military conflict between the IRG and the STC, which controls most of the southern governorates that are loyal to the IRG. The  Houthis are in control in the north of the country, including the capital city Sanaa.

The IRG has called for the formation of an international committee to investigate the incident.