Middle East

Yemen conflict: Governor of Aden killed in Islamic State attack

Yemenis inspect the scene of the attack that killed Aden Governor Jaafar Mohammed Saad (06 December 2015) Image copyright EPA
Image caption A car laden with explosives blew up as Jaafar Mohammed Saad's convoy was passing

Islamic State militants say they carried out a bombing that killed the governor of Yemen's port city of Aden.

Jaafar Mohammed Saad and several aides died when their convoy was hit. IS says it detonated a car laden with explosives as he drove by.

The group has established a presence in Yemen since its civil war broke out.

It is opposed to the government and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who have seized much of the country, including the capital Sanaa.

Earlier this year, Aden was recaptured by government troops backed by a Saudi-led coalition.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Residents said that Sunday's explosion could be heard about seven miles (10km) away
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Aden Governor Jaafar Mohammed Saad (left|) was a close ally of Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi (right)

Mr Saad was appointed Aden governor in October.

The BBC's Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher says the killing of Mr Saad is a blow to Saudi-led efforts to re-establish Aden as a secure base for the government which spent months in exile in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Saad was a significant figure not just as the administrative head of Aden, but for the role he played in driving Houthi rebels out of the port city earlier this year, our correspondent says.

But Aden has remained vulnerable to violence with jihadists carrying out regular attacks.

The claim by IS introduces another dangerous factor into the equation, our correspondent says, because like the long established al-Qaeda franchise in Yemen, IS has gained strength from the violence and chaos of the past nine months of all-out conflict.

Mr Saad's murder is also likely to complicate further the latest UN-led efforts to get a peace process under way.

IS has endeavoured to make the situation even worse, our correspondent says, by bombing mosques and killing captives in its trademark style of grotesque and horrifying showmanship.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Debris from the explosion spread over a wide area

In a statement, IS promised more operations against "the heads of apostasy in Yemen" along with photos of a booby-trapped vehicle which detonated as a white vehicle carrying Mr Saad drove past.

A witness of the blast told the BBC that the explosion was "very powerful" the ensuing fire was "very intense".

"We pulled some wounded people out but we couldn't get the governor out because [his] car was on fire," Abu Mohammed said.

Sunday's violence came after the UN envoy to Yemen met President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in Aden on Saturday in an effort to bring eight months of civil war to an end.

Air strikes and fighting on the ground in Yemen have killed more than 5,700 people since the Saudi-led coalition began a campaign to restore the government in March, according to the UN.

The UN hopes to organise talks later this month between the government and the Houthi rebels, who support former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Islamic State declared its presence in November and have carried out a number of attacks since then.

Why is there fighting in Yemen?

Image copyright Reuters
  • Northern Shia Muslim rebels known as Houthis, backed by forces loyal to Yemen's ex-president, took over parts of Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa, and forced the government into exile in March
  • The rebels accused the government of corruption and of planning to marginalise their heartland within a proposed federal system
  • Forces loyal to the government and southern militias regained control of Aden in July, aided by Saudi-led coalition air strikes and troops
  • The UN says that fighting on the ground and air strikes in Yemen have killed more than 5,700 people since March

The war the world forgot?

Yemen's humanitarian catastrophe

Who is fighting whom?

Meeting the Houthis and their enemies