Rebels, jihadists kill 20 police in Yemen’s Aden
Separate attacks by Shiite rebels and a jihadist suicide bomber killed at least 20 police in Yemen’s government-held second city Aden Thursday, many of them newly trained cadets, security and medical sources said.
The attacks were the first to hit the southern port city in more than a year and dealt a heavy blow to the government’s reorganised security forces, which have been trained and equipped by the United Arab Emirates.
The first attack was a suicide car bombing carried out by jihadists on a police station.
The bomber killed three officers and wounded at least 20 others, including civilian bystanders, a security source said.
An AFP correspondent saw dozens of troops and police reinforcements helping the wounded outside the entrance to the police station in Aden’s Sheikh Othman district.
“Tens of wounded were hospitalised at Aden surgical hospital after an explosion in the surrounding area,” Doctors Without Borders said on Twitter.
The second attack was carried out by the Huthi rebels, who said they launched a drone and a ballistic missile at a training camp west of Aden.
At least 17 policemen were killed and dozens wounded, a medical source said.
The aerial attack hit as senior commanders were overseeing a passing out parade for newly graduated cadets at Al-Jala, a key training camp 20 kilometres (13 miles) west of Aden.
The missile struck about five metres (yards) from the viewing platform and a senior commander was among the dead, an AFP photographer reported.
Between 30 and 35 people were killed or wounded, most of the new graduates of the so-called Security Belt force.
The force of the blast left a large crater in the ground. Bodies were strewn around.
Aden is controlled by the Yemeni government and its supporters in a Saudi-led coalition, which has been fighting the rebels since 2015.
The government established its headquarters the city after the pro-Iran rebels forced it out of the capital Sanaa.
The UAE is a key partner in the coalition which has enforced an air and sea blockade of rebel-held areas and carried out a controversial bombing campaign that has exacted a heavy civilian death toll.
In recent months, the rebels have hit back with missile and drone attacks targeting neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
On the ground, the front lines have remained largely static, with the rebels still in firm control of the capital and much of the north.
Repeated UN peace efforts, including an accord reached in Sweden in December, have failed to end the fighting.
The conflict has killed and wounded tens of thousands of people and resulted in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.
In the face of the deadlock and mounting international condemnation of the toll on civilians, the UAE has drawn down its troops in Yemen in recent weeks, although it has been at pains to stress that it is not preparing to withdraw.
Abu Dhabi said it was moving from a “military-first” strategy to a “peace-first” plan.
“While we will operate differently, our military presence will remain,,” UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said in an op-ed published in The Washington Post late last month.
As well as supporting the fight against the rebels, the UAE has also trained government police and troops for the US-backed war against jihadists, who have long had a presence in the south and east of Yemen.
Sunni extremists of both Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have claimed multiple attacks in Aden in recent years, although the violence had largely subsided over the past 12 months.
In February last year, twin suicide bombings claimed by IS hit a base of an Aden counter-terrorism unit, killing five people, including a child.
Five months later, two people were killed when an attacker blew himself up in the city.
In January last year, Aden was rocked by deadly clashes that saw southern separatists seize much of the city from other pro-government forces.
A former British colony and protectorate, South Yemen was an independent country until it merged with the north in 1990.
The two sides fought a devastating civil war four years later that culminated in northern forces occupying the south, sowing grievances that persist to this day.
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