At least 26 killed as suspected extremists seize airport army HQ in Yemen’s Aden

UAE military vehicles are seen at the international airport of the southern port city of Aden, Yemen.
UAE military vehicles are seen at the international airport of the southern port city of Aden, Yemen.PHOTO: REUTERS

ADEN (AFP, REUTERS) - At least six Yemeni troops and around 20 militant attackers were killed on Wednesday (July 6) in an assault on a military base near the international airport of Yemen’s southern city of Aden, security sources said.  

The assault began when two suicide bombers blew up their cars, followed by armed militants storming the Solaban base.

They occupied several buildings but were killed after four hours of heavy gun battles, the sources said.  

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Islamic State carried out a similar large-scale attack in the southern port of Mukalla on June 27.

In recent days there has also been a raft of bombings apparently carried out by Islamic State in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bangladesh and Iraq.

The surge in violence coincided with the last days of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan when Muslims fast from dawn until dusk. Wednesday marked the beginning of Eid al-Fitr, a major religious festival.  

In the past year, Islamist militants in Yemen have gained in territory and freedom to operate from a civil war pitting government forces against Iran-allied Houthi rebels.

The port city of Aden is under the control of government forces who are struggling to secure it more than a year after it was taken back from the rebels, who have seized control of large parts of the country including the capital, Sanaa.

Reinforcements were on Wednesday rushed to the airport in the city’s Khormaksar district, where they traded rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire with the militants.  

Both Al-Qaeda and Islamic State operate in Yemen. The groups consider government forces and the Houthis as enemies, but are otherwise ideological rivals and compete for recruits.

Al Qaeda has used the security vacuum to seize control over swathes of southern and eastern Yemen, while Islamic State has launched several mass-casualty attacks on security forces.  

Three coordinated Islamic State bomb attacks on government troops killed 38 people in the southern port city of Mukalla on June 27 as they were preparing to break their dawn-to-dusk fast during Ramadan.