Mortar attack hits Yemen military airport

Shells land on runway of Sanaa military airport as tension grips country following rebel Houthis’ takeover of Sanaa.

The Yemeni air force has a base adjacent to the civilian international airport in Sanaa [Reuters]

Mortar shells have hit a military airport in the Yemeni capital, sources tell Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera’s Omar Al Saleh, reporting from Sanaa on Wednesday, said three mortar rounds reportedly struck the runway of the facility.

Sanaa International Airport is adjacent to the military airport, which is used as a base by the Yemeni air force.

The mortar attack came on a day that began with reports that a senior al-Qaeda official wanted by the US, and a local leader of the armed group’s affiliate, Ansar al-Sharia, were killed in a drone strike in central Yemen.

Shawki al-Badani, a leader of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), was one of four people killed, along with Nabil al-Dahab, the leader of Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen’s al-Bayda province, tribal sources said on Wednesday.

The US State Department said Badani was linked to at least two plots against the US embassy in Sanaa and a 2012 suicide bombing in Sanaa that killed more than 100 soldiers.

Explainer: What’s happening in Yemen

In a separate development on Wednesday, US officials denied reports that it had ordered Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former Yemeni president, to leave the country or face possible sanctions.

Saleh’s office told Al Jazeera that the 72-year-old was given a deadline of 14:00 GMT on Friday by the US ambassador to Yemen to leave the country or face possible sanctions.

Saleh’s political party, the General People’s Congress (GPC), described the alleged decision as a blatant interference in Yemen’s internal affairs, saying no country had the right to order a Yemeni national to leave the country.

However, Jen Psaki, the US State Department spokesperson, rejected the claims, saying “there have been no meetings between the ambassador and GPC officials at which any such statements have been made”.

Saleh, whose 33-year reign ended in 2012 after a popular uprising, has been accused of using Yemen’s ongoing crisis to re-establish his influence over the country’s politics.

Yemen has been gripped by insecurity since Saleh’s overthrow, and recent weeks have seen a series of armed attacks in Sanaa after the Shia Houthis seized it in September.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies