Deadly Explosion Rocks Yemeni Airport Just As New Government Members Land People were still disembarking from the plane carrying the officials when the explosion hit, causing a large crowd to scatter. More than 20 were killed. There has been no claim of responsibility.
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Deadly Explosion Rocks Yemeni Airport Just As New Government Members Land

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Deadly Explosion Rocks Yemeni Airport Just As New Government Members Land

Deadly Explosion Rocks Yemeni Airport Just As New Government Members Land

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

It was a day that was supposed to signify a step towards unity for at least a part of Yemen. But as members of a new government that's part of an alliance backed mainly by Gulf Arab countries arrived by plane, explosions rocked the airport, killing or wounding scores. Yemen has been mired in a civil war between the Houthi rebels backed by Iran and that alliance. NPR's Ruth Sherlock reports from Beirut.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: In the scene captured here on a local news channel, a crowd of journalists, soldiers and civilians are gathered on a runway at an airport in the Yemeni city of Aden to welcome members of a new government as they disembark from a plane. Then this...

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSION)

SHERLOCK: ...An explosion - smoke and chaos, gunfire. Hundreds scatter in panic.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (Non-English language spoken).

HUSSAM RADMAN: (Non-English language spoken).

SHERLOCK: Hussam Radman, a researcher at the Sana'a Center for Strategic Studies think tank was at the airport.

RADMAN: (Non-English language spoken).

SHERLOCK: He tells me there were dozens of dead and wounded. Most of them were other travelers or civilians awaiting the arrival of the new government. Officials in Aden say at least 22 people were killed and over 50 wounded in the attack. In Yemen's civil war, the Houthi movement, backed by Iran, ousted the government and took over the capital six years ago. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates backed an alliance of factions to fight the Houthis, but that alliance fractured and started fighting among itself. Today was meant to celebrate the results of a year of negotiation to rebuild that alliance and usher in the new unity government for the part of the country that it controls.

RADMAN: (Non-English language spoken).

SHERLOCK: Although no group has officially claimed responsibility for the attack, Radman - the Yemeni researcher - says most believe this was done by the Houthis, who want to break up the new government. He says if that was their intention, it has backfired and that these factions are now even more united by their determination to defeat their common enemy.

Ruth Sherlock, NPR News, Beirut.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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