A missile attack on a military camp in Aden, the seat of Yemen’s internationally recognised government, has killed dozens of people, according to officials, while a separate suicide bombing in the southern city killed at least 10 others.
The Houthi movement, which controls the capital, Sanaa, claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack which targeted a military parade at a camp belonging to the Yemeni Security Belt forces backed by the United Arab Emirates, a key partner in a military alliance assembled by Saudi Arabia to fight against the rebels.
The Houthis’ official al-Masirah TV said the group launched a medium-range ballistic missile and armed drone at the al-Jalaa military camp, in Aden’s Buraiqa district. It described the parade as being staged in preparation for a military move against provinces held by the rebels.
Al-Masirah TV quoted Houthi spokesman Yehia Sarea as saying that the strike had caused scores of casualties, including military commanders.
The Reuters news agency quoted a medical and a security source as saying at least 32 people were killed in the attack. A health official told The Associated Press news agency the death toll stood at 40.
News agencies reported commander Muneer al-Yafee, a leading figure of the southern separatists also known by his nickname Aboul Yamama, was among those killed. He was reportedly giving a speech at the time of the attack.
The blast occurred “behind the stand where the ceremony was taking place”, a witness told Reuters. Photos showed red berets laying on the ground in pools of blood.
There was no immediate comment from the Yemeni government or the coalition.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Alattab, reporting from Sanaa, said the Houthis sought to send a message to the UAE and Saudi Arabia that the rebels “would hit them hard” in case they continue with their military operations in the country.
“They will continue more attacks in Saudi Arabia and also inside Yemen until the campaign led by the UAE and Saudi Arabia stops,” he said. “This attack reveals that the UAE- and Saudi Arabia-led coalition is not in control of the city.”
International medical charity Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, wrote on Twitter that tens of wounded were hospitalised in Aden after an explosion, but later said it was a separate blast at a police station in the southern port city.
It said 10 people were killed and 16 wounded in Thursday’s suicide attack at Omar al-Mokhtar neighbourhood.
A car, a bus and three motorcycles laden with explosives targeted the police station during a morning police roll-call, Abdel Dayem Ahmed, a senior police official told AP.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the suicide attack. It was not clear if the two attacks in Aden were linked.
Mohammed bin Saeed al-Jabir, Saudi Arabia’s envoy to Yemen, accused Iran of being behind both attacks.
Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, in a separate tweet, said the attacks were coordinated under “Iran’s administration”. They did not elaborate.
Separately, the Houthis said on Thursday they targeted a military site in Dammam, in eastern Saudi Arabia, with a long-range missile.
There was no immediate comment from Saudi authorities.
Yemen’s latest conflict broke out in late 2014 when the Houthis, allied with forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, seized much of the country, including Sanaa.
The war escalated in March 2015 when a Saudi-UAE-led coalition launched a ferocious air campaign against the rebels in a bid to restore the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Since then, tens of thousands of civilians and combatants have been killed and as many as 85,000 children may have starved to death.
Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, who has reported extensively about Yemen, said the coalition’s campaign against the Houthis, now in its fifth year, had failed to defeat the rebels.
“The Houthis can still send rockets into areas located in the deep south, particularly in Aden,” Ahelbarra said.
“And that shows that the decision by the UAE to pull out from Yemen is definitely going to create more problems for the Yemeni government but above all the Saudis who now seem to be in a very critical situation.”
Last month, the UAE announced a decision to reduce its troop presence throughout Yemen, saying it was moving from a “military-first” strategy to a “peace-first” plan. UAE officials said Emirati forces have trained 90,000 Yemeni soldiers to take their place.
But Mahjoob Zweiri, director of the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University, said the UAE troop drawdown had created a security vacuum in southern Yemen.
“It’s very clear there’s been a security vacuum in south of Yemen after the Emiratis left,” he said from the Qatari capital, Doha.
“That’s because there was no arrangement with the legitimate government or the Saudis. There’s also divisions among the forces in the ground. That’s what enabled the Houthis to carry out these attacks, and send the message that the south of Yemen is not stable, and without the Houthis there cannot be stability.”