UAE troops killed in attack claimed by ISIL affiliate
ADEN // Four Emiratis were among 15 coalition soldiers killed on Tuesday in coordinated terrorist attacks in Aden.
A group claiming to be an affiliate of ISIL said it used vehicle bombs driven by suicide bombers to attack a hotel housing Yemen’s government, a military camp of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces and the headquarters of the Emirates Red Crescent.
Military chiefs initially suspected a missile attack by Houthi rebels and their allies, forces loyal to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. But an official from Aden’s main security office, Mohammed Mosaed, said later the attacks had been car bombs.
The ISIL group said it had attacked the Qasr Hotel with two vehicles packed with explosives, and had also targeted the “central operations headquarters of the Saudi and Emirati forces”. The group released pictures claiming to identify the four suicide attackers.
“Four of our brave soldiers have fallen in the line of duty in Aden,” the General Command of the Armed Forces said.
They were Ahmed Khamis Al Hammadi and Mohammed Khalfan Al Seyabi, from Abu Dhabi, Ali Khamis Al Ketbi, from Al Ain, and Yousef Salem Al Kaabi, from Fujairah.
The bombings also killed a number of Yemeni troops.
UAE troops have taken a leading role in driving the Houthis from Aden and Southern Yemen as they seek to restore the internationally recognised government of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.
Prime minister Khaled Bahah and several other ministers managed to escape the attack on the hotel, which is in Al Boraiqah district, where the Yemeni government is based.
The attack started at 6.30am when an armoured car tried to storm the hotel, a member of the anti-Houthi resistance guarding main entrance to the building told The National.
He described how the vehicle was heading for the main gate and then switched course to smash through the fence surrounding the hotel. He claimed two rockets were also fired at the hotel causing “chaos among us”.
A second car then smashed through the fence and exploded at the main gate, he said.
Fire engulfed the building and smoke could be seen billowing from the resort throughout the day. Yemeni government officials said there were casualties among guards and other residents but none of the Yemeni ministers were injured.
A second building in Al Boraiqa district, the home of Sheikh Fareed Al Awlaqi, which was being used as the headquarters of the Emirates Red Crescent and guarded by UAE soldiers, was also targeted.
A guard at the building said a group of armed men in an armoured car stormed the fence of the house and detonated the explosives. “Some of the Emirates soldiers were injured and the fire spread on the whole building,” the guard said.
The Red Crescent has overseen the aid operation in Aden, which was extensively damaged after it was invaded by the Houthi rebels in March.
The third attack took place at 6.40am on a camp of coalition forces in Al Boraiqa district.
“An explosive car tried to storm the camp, but the guards prevented it and it exploded outside,” said Salem Ali, 44, a Yemeni soldier who was guarding the facility. He said some of his fellow guards were killed and others were injured.
All the roads leading to the 239-room Qasr hotel, located near the coast, west of the city centre, were blocked by security forces after the attack. Columns of smoke could be seen rising into the sky and the sounds of sirens from ambulances and other emergency services could be heard across the city.
Groups claiming allegiance to ISIL have already carried out several attacks in Yemen in recent months. But the targets have been Shiite mosques in Sanaa used by the Iran-backed Houthis.
One such suicide bombing killed seven people at a mosque in Sanaa’s Al Nahda neighbourhood on Tuesday, the Houthi-run news agency said. An ISIL affiliated group claimed responsibility, saying the bomb targeted Houthis preparing to go into battle.
The attacks come as the Saudi-led coalition continues to make headway against the Houthi rebels who took over Sanaa more than a year ago before marching south to Aden and driving Mr Hadi into exile.
The coalition started an air campaign to dislodge the militants in and a ground assault, in which has regained the country’s south and continues to push the Houthis back towards Sana.
The attacks in Aden on Tuesday are likely to be the biggest loss of life for the coalition since a Houthi missile attack on a base in Marib in September killed 52 Emirati troops.
Alawi Bafaqeeh, Yemen’s immigration minister, told The National that the Yemeni government, which returned from exile to Aden last month, will continue working from city.
“We will not leave Aden, and we will keep working from Aden during the all conditions,” he said.
Updated: October 6, 2015 04:00 AM