Houthis seen behind attack on Aden airport, in bid to obstruct Riyadh agreement
ADEN–Concurring Yemeni sources and eyewitnesses in the Taiz governorate confirmed to The Arab Weekly that the Houthis have targeted Aden airport with a number of ballistic missiles launched from Taiz airport, which is under their control, prior to the arrival of the plane carrying the new Yemeni cabinet.
The Houthi was according to analysts aimed at preventing the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement and the subsequent formation of a unity government to manage the military and security issues.
Sources pointed out that a number of missiles fell in the terminal and runway of Aden International Airport moments before the members of the Yemeni government headed by Moein Abdul Malik disembarked from the plane. More than twenty people were killed in the attack and scores wounded from among the crowd that was at the airport waiting to welcome the new government formation. Among the victims were Yasmine al-Awadi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Public Works. and a local employee of the International Red Cross.
According to the sources, the missiles greatly damaged the airport lounge and runway, but they did not hit the plane carrying the government coming from the Saudi capital, Riyadh. The same sources indicated that the Arab coalition forces evacuated the plane and transported members of the government to their residence in the presidential palace in the Maasheeq area.
Aden witnessed a tightening of security measures after the incident, while Aden Airport was closed and Yemeni Airlines flights were diverted to Sayun airport in Hadramout Governorate.
Informed Yemeni sources denied to The Arab Weekly the authenticity of the news according to which the presidential palace in Maasheeq had also been attacked by missiles, noting that the forces protecting the palace had tested their air defence weapons in anticipation of any new attacks, in light of information about the detection of drones in the airspace of Lahj (north of Aden) believed to be Houthi.
The official Yemeni News Agency said that President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi ordered the formation of a committee “to investigate the repercussions of the terrorist act […] The said committee will be headed by the Minister of Interior and include the leaders of the security and intelligence services and the local authority in Aden, and work in coordination with the Coalition to Support Legitimacy.”
In his first appearance after the incident, the Yemeni prime minister said the government would remain in Aden “to exercise all its duties and actions supported by the will of the people.”
Speaking with The Arab Weekly by phone from Aden, Yemeni journalist Mohamed Fahd al-Junaidi said, “The attack failed to achieve its goal of targeting the members of the government.”
About the details of the incident, Junaidi told The Arab Weekly, “It was one in the afternoon when I heard explosions next to me and then gunfire, before I heard ambulances rushing to the place and did not stop until three in the afternoon, and it is not possible to accurately determine the number of dead and wounded in these bombings., but it was clear that there were many soldiers and civilians killed and injured, who were inside the airport.”
Junaidi pointed out that the attack on Aden airport was similar to the bombing that killed Brigadier General Munir Al-Yafei, aka Abu al-Yamamah, former leader of the logistical support brigades in August of last year, “with the difference that more than one blast hit the airport.”
Observers considered that the incident targeting Aden airport at the moment of the arrival of the new government formed based on the Riyadh Agreement doubles the challenges ahead, especially in the military and security front, through which some parties rejecting the Riyadh Agreement are hoping to infiltrate the government’s work in order to thwart the new cabinet, confuse the Arab coalition and reshuffle the cards in Aden.
In a statement to The Arab Weekly, Yemeni political researcher Mustafa Ghleis described the government of Moein Abdul Malik as a government of last resort, pointing out that targeting it with a terrorist attack is nothing but an attempt to strike at the program it is entrusted with implementing.
He added, “We all know that we are at war with the Houthi militia and that it wants to obstruct this government and muddle the situation to thwart the political path agreed upon by the parties of the legitimacy camp, based on the Riyadh Agreement, which has accomplished many of its goals aimed at uniting the ranks.”
Regarding the party behind the incident, Ghleis indicated that the recordings documenting the explosion confirm that it was a missile attack carried out by drones and that the Houthi militia were behind it. This version was also confirmed by the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism in the Yemeni government, Muammar al-Eryani.
Eryani wrote on Twitter about an hour after the blasts, “The cowardly terrorist attack carried out by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia on Aden airport will not deter us from carrying out our patriotic duty.”
Stances condemning the incident continued, as the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, described the attack on the Aden Airport as “a targeting of the Riyadh Agreement and the prospects for stability and peace it holds in brotherly Yemen.”
“Incitement, sabotage, violence and terrorism will fail in the face of the peace project led by brotherly kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the good of Yemen and the region,” he added on Twitter.
UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, condemned the attack on Aden airport upon the arrival of the members of the government. “I wish the Council of Ministers resilience in the face of the difficult tasks ahead. This violent act is unacceptable, and it is a tragic reminder of the importance of urgently returning Yemen to the path of peace,” he said.
The Saudi ambassador to Yemen and one of the architects of the Riyadh Agreement between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council, Mohamed al-Jaber considered the targeting of the Yemeni government upon its arrival at Aden airport as “a cowardly terrorist act targeting all of the Yemeni people, their security, stability and their daily life, and it confirms the extent of disappointment and confusion that the death and destruction mongers have reached as a result of the successful implementation of the Riyadh Agreement, the formation of the Yemeni government, and its commencement of its duties to serve the Yemeni people.”
The attempt to target the new internationally-recognised Yemeni government poses enormous challenges in terms of reviewing the work of security and military institutions, and revitalising intelligence work in the face of the Houthi infiltration, in addition to dealing seriously with anti-coalition activity and the goals of “legitimacy” camp from within government institutions.