Yemen’s PM says airport attack aimed to ‘eliminate’ cabinet, blames Iran-backed rebels

CAIRO — Yemen’s prime minister says that a missile attack on the airport in Aden was meant “to eliminate” the country’s new government as it arrived in the key southern city — a daring assault which he blames on Iran-backed rebels.

Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed speaks to The Associated Press in an interview conducted at his office in the Mashiq Palace in Aden. It is the leader’s first interview with international media after he survived Wednesday’s attack that killed at least 25 people and wounded 110 others.

“It’s a major terrorist attack that was meant to eliminate the government,” the premier says. “It was a message against peace and stability in Yemen.”

Saeed repeats his government’s accusations that Yemen’s Houthi rebels were responsible for the missile attack on the airport and a drone assault on the palace, shortly after the premier and his Cabinet were transferred there.

The new Yemeni government was formed in December to end a dangerous political rift with southern separatists who are backed by the United Arab Emirates. The internal rift threatened the UAE’s partnership with Saudi Arabia that is fighting the Houthis in Yemen.

Saeed says that the “techniques” used in the airport missile attack were hallmarks of the Houthis’ strategy.

Houthi officials have denied being behind the attack, but sought to blame unspecified groups in the Saudi-led coalition. The rebel leaders have not offered any evidence nor answered requests for comment.

The Houthis have carried out similar attacks in the past. In 2015, former Yemeni prime minister Khaled Bahah and members of his cabinet survived a missile attack, blamed on the Houthis, that struck an Aden hotel used by the government. Last year, the Houthis fired a missile at a military parade of a militia loyal to the UAE at a base in Aden, killing dozens.

— AP