Three rockets slammed into Yemen’s port city of Aden yesterday, striking a hotel that is home to officials from the exiled government and two buildings used by Saudi Arabia-led coalition troops, killing at least 15 people.
No-one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack on the al-Qasr Hotel, though blame immediately fell on the Shiite rebels known as Houthis that the Saudi-led coalition has been targeting since March.
Government spokesman Rajeh Badi said the rockets were fired from outside the city. All government ministers and the prime minister were safe and unhurt, he said, adding that the cabinet would hold an emergency meeting on the attack.
The United Arab Emirates’ official WAM news agency quoted unnamed “informed sources and witnesses” for the death toll and blamed Houthi rebels and their allies for the deaths. Members of the Gulf coalition have been providing security at the luxury al-Qasr hotel, and the Yemeni government officials’ presence there makes it a highly symbolic target for the rebels.
A message on the official Facebook page of Yemen’s vice-president, Khaled Bahah, said “two rockets” struck the compound within which the al-Qasr hotel sits. Mr Bahah later met with UAE and Saudi military and security officials in Aden, as well as Yemeni officials in charge of the security belt around the city, which was taken back from the Houthis earlier this year.
Aside from forces loyal to the exiled president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the Emirates has the most overt presence among coalition forces inside Yemen. The seven-state federation has some 4,000 troops on the ground, a senior Emirati commander said last month, and boasts military hardware including tanks, armoured fighting vehicles and attack helicopters. Witnesses said the hotel caught fire after the attack. All officials and witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity.
Yemen has been embroiled in fighting that pits the Shiite rebels known as Houthis and forces loyal to a former president against the Saudi-backed and internationally recognised government as well as southern separatists, local militias and Sunni extremists. The Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out air strikes against the rebels and their allies since March.
The Emirates and other coalition allies see Yemen’s second-largest city of Aden as the key to restoring its government to power as they attempt to push the rebels from the capital, Sanaa.
Mr Hadi visited Aden two weeks ago under tight security, his first visit after nearly six months of exile in Saudi, and a week after other cabinet members returned.