Yemen clashes force closure of Aden airport

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Heavy fighting hits airport as forces loyal to ex-president Saleh battle militiamen backing current President Hadi.

The airport and seaport in Aden were closed several times in recent months due to unrest in the southern city [ Reuters]Yemeni special forces opposed to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi have battled loyalist militia around Aden airport leaving at least four people dead and 13 wounded, security sources said.

The clashes, which erupted before dawn on Thursday, forced the airport to close as the Hadi loyalists battled to defend it against the advancing troops.

More than a 100 passengers who had boarded a flight to Cairo, including an Associated Press reporter, were ordered off the Yemenia aircraft and made their way to the terminal as machinegun fire rang out.

The sound of heavy explosions shook the terminal building as the clashes intensified.

At least two shells have hit the airport’s grounds, said security and aviation officials at the scene, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to reporters.

The fighting centered around a security forces’ base adjacent to the Aden airport’s eastern section. The airport is less than a kilometre from the city centre.

Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation, is deeply polarised and engulfed in turmoil that threatens to split the country amid a power grab by Iranian-backed Shia rebels known as the Houthis.

The Houthis last year seized the capital, Sanaa, and several northern provinces, and in January declared themselves the country’s rulers.

Hadi insists he remains the country’s legitimate leader and enjoys much support in Aden, where he has been based since fleeing house arrest in Sanaa last month.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s al-Qaeda branch, considered by Washington the network’s most dangerous offshoot, has profited from the turmoil and has been stepping up attacks on Yemeni forces and also the Shia rebels.

Source: AP

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