Houthis attack Yemen's largest airbase, killing six

Loyalist top brass and journalists were reportedly among the wounded.
Thursday 10/01/2019
Fighters loyal to Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi gather on a road leading to the al-Anad military and air base in the country's southern province of Lahij. (Reuters)
Fighters loyal to Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi gather on a road leading to the al-Anad military and air base in the country's southern province of Lahij. (Reuters)

AL ANAD AIR BASE, Yemen - A rebel drone attack on Yemen's largest airbase killed six loyalist soldiers on Thursday, raising questions over UN-led peace efforts.

The pro-Iranian Shia Houthi rebels said they carried out the attack on Al-Anad air base in the government-held southern province of Lahij, some 60 kilometres north of Yemen's second city Aden.

At least 12 people were wounded in the attack, including top commanders, according to medics at the Ibn Khaldoun hospital in the provincial capital Houta.

Loyalist Deputy Chief of Staff Saleh al-Zandani, intelligence Brigadier General Saleh Tamah and senior army commander Fadel Hasan were among the wounded, along with Lahij governor Ahmad Abdullah al-Turki, doctors at Ibn Khaldoun hospital told AFP on condition of anonymity.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said that journalists were among the wounded.

The Houthi's Al-Masirah TV said the attack targeted "the leadership of the invaders."

Footage of the attack showed a drone exploding over a podium around which dozens of military personnel were standing.

Soldiers scrambled to carry wounded comrades to military vehicles, while a man holding a camera bled on the ground.

Originally built by the then Soviet Union during the Cold War, Al-Anad airbase served as the headquarters for US troops overseeing a long-running drone war against al-Qaeda until March 2014, when it was overrun by the Houthis.

The base was recaptured by government forces in August 2015 as they recovered territory from the rebels across the south with support from a Saudi-led military coalition.

The attack there came one day after UN envoy Martin Griffiths warned "substantial progress" was needed on the ground before full-blown negotiations could be launched on ending the civil war.

The strike on loyalist top brass is likely to create a new obstacle to the launch of formal peace talks.

(Arab Weekly staff and news agencies)