Attacks on several targets in the Yemeni-port city of Aden have killed 15 soldiers from the Arab coalition and its allies in Yemen, according to the official WAM news agency based in the United Arab Emirates.
Explosions hit a hotel housing Yemeni officials and a Gulf military base in Aden, a government spokesman and residents said on Tuesday, in the biggest attack on the government since it retook the city from its Houthi foes in July.
The official news agency said of the dead, four were Emiratis and one was Saudi.
All government ministers and the prime minister were safe and unhurt, Yemeni officials said, adding that the cabinet would imminently hold an emergency meeting on the attack.
Members of the Gulf coalition have been providing security at the luxury al-Qasr hotel, and Yemeni government officials’ presence there makes it a highly symbolic target.
— عدن الآن للأنباء (@AdenNowNews) October 6, 2015
Aside from forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the Emirates has the most overt presence among coalition forces inside Yemen.
The UAE has about 4,000 troops on the ground, a senior Emirati commander said last month, and boasts military hardware including tanks, armoured fighting vehicles and attack helicopters.
Witnesses said the hotel was on fire after the attack.
An account affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group claimed responsibility for the attack, posting pictures of the four suicide bombers were behind the explosions. It also claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a mosque in the capital, Sanaa.
Seven people were killed in the attack on al-Nour mosque in the al-Nahda neighbourhood in the northwest of the city. ISIL said the explosion was targeted at Houthis preparing to go to the front.
Neither claim of responsibility could be independently verified.
Yemen has been embroiled in fighting that pits the Shia rebels known as Houthis and forces loyal to a former president against the Saudi-backed and internationally recognised government.
The Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out air strikes against the rebels and their allies since March.
The Emirates and other members of the coalition see Yemen’s second-largest city of Aden as a key foothold in restoring Yemen’s government to power as they and their Yemeni allies attempt to push the rebels from Sanaa.
Hadi visited Aden two weeks ago under tight security, his first visit back to Yemen after nearly six months of exile in Saudi Arabia. That visit came a week after several members of his cabinet returned to the city.
Anwar Gargash, the Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, said Tuesday’s attack was “the latest proof” that the Houthis and their allies are out to destroy Yemen.
الهجوم على فندق القصر الذي يقيم فيه رئيس الوزراء اليمني خالد بحاح دليل آخر لمن يحتاج إلى دليل أن الحوثيين و المخلوع مصرين على تدمير اليمن.
— د. أنور قرقاش (@AnwarGargash) October 6, 2015
The assault on Tuesday comes after a September 4 missile attack on an ammunition depot at the Emirati forward operating base at Saffer in Marib province killed 52 Emirati troops, as well as at least 10 soldiers from Saudi Arabia and five from Bahrain.
It was the heaviest military loss for the Emirates since its founding in 1971.