Attack in Yemen's Aden kills 15; Islamic State claims blasts
SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- Attacks targeting exiled Yemeni officials and Saudi-led troops fighting in the country's civil war killed at least 15 people Tuesday in the port city of Aden, authorities said. A new Islamic State affiliate claimed responsibility for the assault, which officials previously blamed on Yemen's Shiite rebels.
The addition of the Islamic State group into Yemen's months-long war only would add to the chaos on the ground in the Arab world's poorest country. Previously, the Sunni extremists largely targeted Shiite mosques in Yemen as a myriad of forces fought over the ouster of internationally recognized President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi by the Shiite rebels known as Houthis.
The attack on the Al Qasr Hotel & Resort, a large compound that Yemeni officials use as a headquarters, happened early Tuesday morning. A blast struck the front of the 239-room hotel along the Arabian Sea, west of the port city's downtown, sending thick black smoke rising over it for hours as sirens wailed.
Two other attacks followed on locations used by troops from the United Arab Emirates, which has the most overt presence among coalition forces inside Yemen.
The official Saudi Press Agency blamed the Houthis for the attack, saying the rebels fired Russian-designed Katyusha rockets. Those rockets are part of the Yemeni military stockpile that the Houthis, as well as al-Qaida's local branch in the country, have seized amid the war's chaos.
But by Tuesday afternoon, the new Islamic State affiliate in Aden claimed the attacks in a message circulated by militant sympathizers online. It said a truck bomb driven by a militant named Abu Saad al-Adani first attacked the hotel, followed by a bomber named Abu Mohammed al-Sahli driving an explosive-laden Humvee.
It also said bomber Aws al-Adani attacked the "Central Operations Headquarters of the Saudi and Emirati forces" while Abu Hamza al-Sanaani attacked an Emirati military administrative headquarters.
The Associated Press could not independently verify the message, though it was released like others by the group and carried its logos. It also included photographs of the supposed bombers.
Saudi, Emirati and Yemeni officials did not immediately comment on the claim.
Earlier, the United Arab Emirates' official WAM news agency quoted unnamed "informed sources and witnesses" for the death toll of 15 people killed, blaming Yemen's Houthi rebels and their allies for the deaths.
Houthi officials and their allied media had no immediate comment on the Aden attack.
The general command of the UAE's armed forces said the dead included four Emirati soldiers, though the Saudi Press Agency said the dead included three Emiratis and one Saudi. The discrepancy could not be immediately reconciled.
WAM said the dead also included local Yemeni fighters taking part in the coalition. The Saudi Press Agency said an investigation was underway into the attack.
Yemen has been embroiled in fighting that pits the Shiite rebels known and forces loyal to a former president against the Saudi-backed and internationally recognized government as well as southern separatists, local militias and Sunni extremists. The Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against the rebels and their allies since March.
The Emirates has some 4,000 troops on the ground, a senior Emirati commander said last month, and boasts military hardware including tanks, armored fighting vehicles and attack helicopters.
The Emirates and other members of the coalition see Yemen's second-largest city of Aden as a key foothold in restoring Yemen's exiled government to power as they and their Yemeni allies attempt to push the rebels from the capital, Sanaa.
Tuesday's assault comes after a Sept. 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.
The war has taken a heavy toll on Yemen. More than 4,000 people have been killed, and the humanitarian crisis has left the impoverished country on the brink of famine.
Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Maram Mazen and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.
Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap .