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Yemen: At least 16 dead and 60 wounded as blast strikes airport in Aden

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People run following an explosion at the airport in Aden, Yemen, shortly after a plane carrying the newly formed Cabinet landed on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020.
People run following an explosion at the airport in Aden, Yemen, shortly after a plane carrying the newly formed Cabinet landed on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP
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A large explosion struck the airport in the southern Yemeni city of Aden on Wednesday.

The blast came shortly after a plane carrying the newly formed Cabinet landed there, security officials said.

Mohammed al-Roubid, deputy head of Aden’s health office, told the AP that at least 16 people were killed in the explosion and 60 were wounded.

The source of the explosion was not immediately clear and no group claimed responsibility for attacking the airport.

Footage from the scene showed members of the government delegation disembarking as the blast shook surroundings.

No one on the government plane was hurt but 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 also on the government plane, told The Associated Press that he heard two explosions.

Images shared on social media from the scene showed rubble and broken glass strewn around the airport building.

The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, condemned the explosion as an “unacceptable act of violence.”

He said in a tweet that it was “a tragic reminder of the importance of bringing #Yemen urgently back on the path towards peace.”

The ministers were returning to Aden after being sworn in last week as part of a reshuffle following a deal with rival southern separatists.

Yemen’s internationally recognised government has worked mostly from self-imposed exile in the Saudi capital of Riyadh during the country’s years-long civil war.

Yemen’s embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in exile in Saudi Arabia, announced a Cabinet reshuffle earlier this month.

The reshuffle was seen as a major step toward closing a dangerous rift between Hadi's government and southern separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates.

The Saudi-backed government is at war with Iran-allied Houthi rebels, who control most of northern Yemen as well as the country’s capital, Sanaa.

Naming a new government was part of a power-sharing deal between the Saudi-backed Hadi and the Emirati-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council - an umbrella group of militias seeking to restore an independent southern Yemen, which existed from 1967 until unification in 1990.

The blast underscores the dangers facing Hadi’s government in the port city which was a scene of bloody fighting between forces of the internationally recognized government and the UAE-backed separatists.

Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, has been engulfed in civil war since 2014 when the Shiite Houthi rebels overran the north and Sanaa.

The following year, a Saudi-led military coalition intervened to wage war on the Houthis and restore Hadi's government to power.

The bloody war has killed more than 112,000, including thousands of civilians. The conflict also resulted in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.