ADEN: Yemen’s prime minister survived a rocket attack on his hotel as an assault on Aden killed 15 coalition troops and loyalists Tuesday, just weeks after the city was recaptured from rebels.
Prime Minister Khaled Bahah escaped unharmed, but the attack on the Al-Qasr hotel as well as military installations elsewhere in the southern port city left dead 15 Arab soldiers and fighters loyal to his government.
Two rockets struck the heavily fortified multi-storey hotel, setting it alight and causing smoke to billow into the sky, while a third rocket missed its target and splashed into the sea, officials in Aden said.
“Prime Minister Khaled Bahah is in good health and was not harmed,” said Nayef al-Bakri, the minister of youth and sports.
“The government will remain in Aden,” he added, even after some ministers “were lightly wounded and moved to a safe location” following the attack on the hotel.
Rockets also targeted a nearby barracks used by Saudi-led forces as well as a residence for members of the coalition, according to an AFP photographer, who saw helicopters evacuating casualties from the site.
The attacks by the Iran-backed rebels and their allies “targeted the government headquarters and several military positions (and) left 15 Arab coalition and Yemeni resistance martyrs,” said the Emirati WAM news agency.
The agency said four Emirati soldiers were among the coalition forces that were killed and that several others were wounded, taking to 67 the number of UAE soldiers killed so far in the conflict.
The coalition meanwhile issued a statement published on the Saudi SPA news agency saying the attacks killed three Emiratis and one Saudi soldier.
And medics told AFP that two Yemeni guards were killed and 12 were wounded in the attack on Bahah’s hotel.
Bahah and several of his ministers had returned to Aden on September 16, two months after loyalist forces supported by Saudi-led air strikes pushed Iran-backed rebels out of the city.
The Shiite Huthi rebels seized much of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa, with the help of renegade troops loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The country’s internationally recognised president, Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, designated Aden the temporary capital last month when he returned there briefly from neighbouring Saudi Arabia after six months in exile.
SPA said the attacks were carried out by “Katyusha rockets” and that coalition forces “responded to the source of fire and destroyed the vehicles” used to launch the assaults, adding that an investigation was ongoing into the incident.
No room for ‘adventures’
On his official Facebook page, Bahah wrote that two rockets crashed inside the hotel and several others landed elsewhere.
The attacks come just days after Bahah warned the Shiite Huthi rebels, who have been in control Sanaa since September, that there was no room for more “adventures”.
Gulf-backed Hadi and his government returned to Aden last month after loyalist forces regained control of the city, its province and four other southern provinces from the rebels.
Aden had suffered major destruction during months of fighting between local pro-government forces, backed by the coalition, and the rebels who entered it around mid-March.
Bahah is overseeing reconstruction works in a challenging attempt to bring life back to normal in the devastated city, including the restart of operations of the Aden refinery, which had come under several attacks from the rebels.
Bahah had urged security and army officials to restore security in the city which is still experiencing violence, such as the torching of a church last month and assassinations of security personnel.
Hadi returned to Saudi Arabia on Monday where he met with King Salman, a key supporter of his government.
Loyalists last week retook control of the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait, which separates Yemen from Djibouti some 32 kilometres (20 miles) away and funnels shipping to and from the Suez Canal at the north end of the Red Sea.
The United Nations says the Yemeni conflict has killed about 5,000 people and wounded 25,000, among them many civilians.