Aden International Airport in Yemen was attacked on December 30 soon after the arrival of a plane carrying members of the country’s new government. The Yemeni ministers were returning to Aden from Riyadh after being sworn in last week as part of a Cabinet reshuffle.
Loud explosions and gunfire were heard at the airport and clouds of smoke were seen shortly after the plane from Saudi Arabia landed. The passengers are reported to have been safely transferred to the presidential palace. However, the attack resulted in the deaths of at least 26 people, including workers with the International Committee of the Red Cross, and injured more than 100.
The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, have condemned the violent action. Guterres expressed his condemnation of the “deplorable attack” whilst, in a separate statement, Griffiths said the “unacceptable act of violence is a tragic reminder of the importance of bringing Yemen urgently back on the path towards peace.” Griffiths added that “a transgression of such magnitude potentially amounts to a war crime”.
Yemen, the Arab world’s most impoverished nation, has been riven by conflict since 2015, when fighting erupted between a Saudi-backed coalition supporting the internationally-recognized government and the Houthi rebel group known formally as Ansar Allah.
Figures released by the UN humanitarian office in early December, suggest that more than 230,000 Yemenis have died due to the war, the majority – some 131,000 – through indirect causes such as lack of food, health services and infrastructure. Over 3,000 children have been killed, and 1,500 civilian casualties have been reported in the first nine months of this year.
The attack on Aden airport is an ominous sign of the scale of challenges facing the Yemeni authorities, which have been forced to work mainly in exile, from Saudi Arabia. It comes after a period of relative calm, and months of negotiations aimed at bringing about a peace deal.
Following the attack, Aden International Airport was closed in order to carry out essential repairs and safeguards. On January 3, the airport received a flight from national airline Yemenia, which arrived from Sudan’s capital Khartoum.