Yemeni minister unharmed after explosion targets his convoy

CAIRO (AP) — Yemen’s internationally recognized government said a Cabinet minister survived an attempt on his life in the southern city of Aden on Thursday, escaping unharmed from an explosion that targeted his convoy.

A government statement said Minister of Civil Service and Insurance Abdel Nasser al-Waly was not harmed, describing the attack as “sinful and terrorist.” It was not known if anyone was hurt in the explosion.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast. Yemen’s new prime minister, Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, ordered an investigation.

Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war since 2014, when the Iran-backed Shiite rebels — known as the Houthis — overran the capital, Sanaa, and much of the north. A Saudi-led coalition intervened months later and has been battling the rebels since 2015 to try and restore the internationally recognized government to power. The conflict has killed about 130,000 people and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.

The incumbent government was formed in December to end an internal rift with southern separatists, backed by the United Arab Emirates. The rift had threatened the UAE’s partnership with Saudi Arabia in the anti-Houthi coalition.

Saeed’s Cabinet was formed following a power-sharing deal between the Saudi-backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the secessionist Southern Transitional Council, an umbrella group of militias seeking to restore an independent southern Yemen, which existed from 1967 until unification in 1990.

Al-Waly, the minister reported targeted on Thursday is a prominent member of the council, which said in a statement that two roadside bombs went off as his convoy drove through Aden. The statement did not provide further details.

Separately, the statement said 12 southern fighters loyal to the council were killed on Thursday in an attack in the southern province of Abyan. It did not elaborate. However, security officials told The Associated Press that a group of militants had attacked a security checkpoint in Abyan’s district of Ahwar using machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, adding that that four civilians were among the casualties.

The attack carried the fingerprints of al-Qaida, added the officials, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Saeed’s government has struggled to restore stability. Thursday’s attacks came two days after a protest against dire economic conditions escalated when some demonstrators broke through the entrance gate of the Presidential Palace in Aden. Shots were heard as the crowd gathered around the entrance gate but there was no subsequent word of any casualties.

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Associated Press writer Ahmed Al-Haj in Sanaa, Yemen, contributed to this report.

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