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Aden airport blast kills 25, wounds 110: Yemeni officials

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Sanaa, Dec 31: A large explosion struck the airport in the southern Yemeni city of Aden, shortly after a plane carrying the newly formed Cabinet landed there, security officials said.

Aden

At least 25 people were killed and 110 wounded in the blast. Yemen's internationally recognised government said Iran-backed Houthi rebels fired four ballistic missiles at the airport.

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Rebel officials did not answer phone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment. No one on the government plane was hurt. The officials later reported another explosion close to a palace in the city where the Cabinet members were transferred following the airport attack.

The Saudi-led coalition later shot down a bomb-laden drone that attempted to target the palace, according to Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV channel. The Cabinet reshuffle was seen as a major step toward closing a dangerous rift between the government of embattled Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and southern separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates.

Hadi's government and the separatists are nominal allies in Yemen's years-long civil war that pits the Saudi-led, US-backed military coalition against the Houthis, who control most of northern Yemen as well as the country's capital, Sanaa.

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AP footage from the scene at the airport showed members of the government delegation disembarking as the blast shook the grounds. 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 on the plane, told the AP that he heard two explosions, suggesting they were drone attacks.

Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed and the others were quickly whisked from the airport to the Mashiq Palace. Military and security forces sealed off the area around the the palace.

"It would have been a disaster if the plane was bombed," al-Awg said, insisting the plane was the target of the attack as it was supposed to land earlier.

Prime Minister Saeed tweeted that he and his Cabinet were safe and unhurt. He called the explosions a "cowardly terrorist act" that was part of the war on "the Yemeni state and our great people." Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak blamed the Houthis for the attacks.

His ministry said in a statement later that the rebels fired four ballistic missiles at the airport, and launched drone attacks at the palace, the Cabinet's headquarters.

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    ICRC workers were at the airport transiting with other civilians when the blast took place, it said. "This is a tragic day for the ICRC and for the people of Yemen," said Dominik Stillhart, ICRC's director of operations. Yemeni Belqees television said its reporter Adeeb al-Ganabi was also killed in the airport blast.

    Information Minister Moammer al-Iryani said at least 10 other journalists were wounded. A statement from Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said the "Secretary-General condemns the deplorable attack on Aden airport shortly after the arrival of the newly formed Yemeni cabinet, which killed and wounded dozens of people."

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