People watch as smoke billows from Al-Qasr Hotel in Aden yesterday.
Islamic State says four suicide bombers struck the government headquarters and positions of the Saudi-led coalition, a claim that contradicts official accounts of a rebel rocket attack
Yemen’s premier survived an attack in Aden yesterday claimed by the Islamic State group but officially blamed on Shia rebels, with 15 coalition troops and loyalists killed there and elsewhere in the city.
While Prime Minister Khaled Bahah escaped unharmed in the attack on government headquarters at Al-Qasr Hotel, some of his ministers were “lightly wounded”.
Military installations were also hit.
Bahah and some ministers only returned to Aden in mid-September from six months in Saudi exile after fleeing with President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi as the Iran-backed Houthi rebels advanced on the city.
IS said four suicide bombers struck the government headquarters and positions of the Saudi-led coalition, a claim that contradicted official accounts of a rebel rocket attack.
Bahah wrote on Facebook that two rockets had hit the hotel while other rockets struck elsewhere.
But an IS statement, posted online, said two bomb-laden vehicles driven by its members had struck the heavily fortified, multi-storey hotel.
The militants, who control large parts of Iraq and Syria and have affiliates elsewhere in the region, said an unspecified number of soldiers were killed.
A third suicide bomber drove an armoured vehicle into a “central operations headquarters of Saudi and Emirati forces, killing dozens”.
And a fourth blew up a UAE-held military position using another armoured vehicle, the group said.
IS published the names and photographs of the four alleged assailants.
But the UAE’s official Wam news agency said the attacks were carried out by the rebels and their allies, who “targeted the government headquarters and several military positions (and) left 15 Arab coalition and Yemeni resistance martyrs”.
It said four Emirati soldiers were among the coalition forces killed and that several others were wounded.
The coalition said three Emiratis and one Saudi soldier died.
Katyusha rockets were used, and coalition forces “responded to the source of fire and destroyed the vehicles” used to launch them, the official Saudi SPA news agency quoted a statement as saying.
Medics said two Yemeni guards were killed and 12 wounded in the attack on Bahah’s hotel.
There was no immediate comment from the coalition on the IS claim.
Officials in Aden backed the coalition claim, saying two rockets struck the hotel, setting it on fire, while a third missed its target and splashed into the sea.
An AFP photographer saw helicopters evacuating casualties from a nearby residence for coalition members, as plumes of smoke rose from it. Smoke was also rising from adjacent barracks used by the Saudi-led forces.
Youth and Sports Minister Nayef al-Bakri said the government would remain in Aden, even after some ministers “were lightly wounded and moved to a safe location”.
Bahah and several of his ministers returned to Aden on September 16, two months after Gulf-backed loyalist forces pushed Iran-backed rebels out of the city.
The rebels known as Houthis seized much of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa, with the help of renegade troops loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
President Hadi designated Aden the temporary capital last month when he returned there briefly from Saudi Arabia.
The attacks come just days after Bahah warned the rebels that there was no room for more “adventures”.
Yesterday’s claim is the first from IS for an attack against the Saudi-led coalition.
Previously it only claimed attacks against Shia mosques in Yemen.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia are among other Arab states taking part in a US-led coalition pounding IS in Syria and Iraq.
On September 4, a rebel missile attack in the eastern Yemeni province of Marib killed 67 coalition troops, including 52 Emiratis.
Bahah is overseeing reconstruction works in Aden, which suffered major destruction during months of fighting.
He has also pressed the army to restore security in the city, which is still experiencing violence.
Hadi returned to Saudi Arabia on Monday, where he met with King Salman.
The United Nations says the conflict has killed about 5,000 people and wounded 25,000, among them many civilians.
More than 114,000 people have fled Yemen and the figure could reach at least 200,000 by the end of 2016, aid officials said yesterday.
“Close to 70,000 people fleeing the crisis have arrived in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan,” the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said in a statement.
“Up to 44,080 people are reported to have arrived in Saudi Arabia and Oman.”
The IOM said the number of people fleeing Yemen to neighbouring nations could rise to over 200,000 by the end of next year.
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