In Yemeni city, blast rocks hotel with government officials
SANAA: Three explosions struck Yemen's port city of Aden on Tuesday, including a blast at a hotel that is home to Cabinet members of the country's exiled government, security officials said. The explosions caused casualties, the officials said, but they could not provide any precise figures.
The blasts in Aden also targeted troops from the United Arab Emirates, which is part of a Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen's Shiite rebels.
Details were sketchy and there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.
"There is an ongoing investigation by the Arab coalition over the injuries that happened because of the strikes," the United Arab Emirates' official WAM news agency reported, without elaborating.
Aside from forces loyal to 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, armored fighting vehicles and attack helicopters.
The security officials, who work for Yemen's internationally recognised government, said one explosion rocked the Al Qasr Hotel, where the prime minister and officials reside, while the other two hit a residence and the local headquarters of Emirati troops.
Members of the Gulf coalition have been providing security at the luxury hotel, and the Yemeni government officials' presence there makes it a highly symbolic target for the rebels.
Witnesses said the hotel was on fire and that there are ambulances at the scene. All officials and witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
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 airstrikes against the rebels and their allies since March.
The Emirates and other members of the coalition see Yemen's second city of Aden as a key foothold in restoring Yemen's government to power as they and their Yemeni allies attempt to push the rebels from the capital, Sanaa.
President Hadi visited Aden two weeks ago under tight security, his first visit back to Yemen after nearly six months of exile in Saudi Arabia. That visit came a week after several members of his Cabinet returned to the city.
Anwar Gargash, the Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, said Tuesday's attack was "the latest proof" that the Houthis and their allies are out to destroy Yemen.
"The reality on the ground is they are fighting a losing battle. Their role on the ground has been reduced so they resort to mines, ambushes and rockets," he said on his official Twitter account. "The attack today on the Qasr reinforces our need to destroy the forces of rebellion and destruction. We will continue in our endeavor until victory. And it is close."
The assault Tuesday comes after a Sept. 4 missile attack on an ammunition depot at the Emirati forward operating base at Saffer in Marib province killed 52 Emirati troops, as well as at least 10 soldiers from Saudi Arabia and five from Bahrain. It was the heaviest military loss for the Emirates since its founding in 1971.