A large explosion struck the airport in the southern Yemeni city of Aden on Wednesday, shortly after a plane carrying the newly formed Cabinet landed there, security officials said. At least 25 people were killed and 110 wounded in the blast.
Yemen’s internationally recognized government said Iran-backed Houthi rebels fired four ballistic missiles at the airport. Rebel officials did not answer phone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment. No one on the government plane was hurt.
Officials later reported another explosion close to a palace in the city where the Cabinet members were transferred following the airport attack. The Saudi-led coalition later shot down a bomb-laden drone that attempted to target the palace, according to Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV channel.
The Cabinet reshuffle was seen as a major step toward closing a dangerous rift between the government of embattled Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and southern separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates.
Hadi’s government and the separatists are nominal allies in Yemen’s years-long civil war that pits the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed military coalition against the Houthis, who control most of northern Yemen as well as the country’s capital, Sanaa.
Footage from the scene at the airport showed members of the government delegation disembarking as the blast shook the grounds. Many ministers rushed back inside the plane or ran down the stairs, seeking shelter.
Thick smoke rose into the air from near the terminal building. Officials at the scene said they saw bodies lying on the tarmac and elsewhere at the airport.
Yemeni communication minister Naguib al-Awg, who was on the plane, said that he heard two explosions, suggesting they were drone attacks. Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed and the others were quickly whisked from the airport to the Mashiq Palace.
Military and security forces sealed off the area around the palace.
“It would have been a disaster if the plane was bombed,” al-Awg said, insisting the plane was the target of the attack as it was supposed to land earlier.
Prime Minister Saeed tweeted that he and his Cabinet were safe and unhurt. He called the explosions a “cowardly terrorist act” that was part of the war on “the Yemeni state and our great people.”