Middle East

Yemen crisis: Air raid on president's palace in Aden

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Media captionMr Hadi described the attacks as an attempted coup, as Jonathan Josephs reports

Warplanes have targeted the palace used by Yemen's President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in the southern city of Aden.

Officials said anti-aircraft guns prevented any direct hits on the hilltop compound. But witnesses saw smoke rising from the area afterwards.

It is not clear if Mr Hadi was inside, but aides said he was now safe.

Earlier, there were clashes at Aden's airport between troops and militiamen loyal to Mr Hadi and those backing his predecessor and the Houthi rebels.

At least six people were killed as the president's forces repelled an assault, which forced the airport's temporary closure.

Aden has been the president's base since he fled the Sanaa last month, after being placed under effective house arrest by the rebels when they took full control of the capital in January and declared that a five-member "presidential council" would rule the country.

'Under control'

The deputy editor of the al-Ayam newspaper in Aden, Bashraheel Bashraheel, told the BBC that he heard fighter jets flying over the city at about 15:30 local time (12:30 GMT).

"Then we heard a loud bang and anti-aircraft guns firing from the presidential palace," he added. "Some witnesses who live within a few hundred metres of the palace saw smoke coming out of the buildings."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption At least five people were killed in Thursday's clashes at Aden's international airport
Image copyright AP
Image caption Passengers were stranded at the terminal during the fighting, but flights later resumed

Officials said the warplanes fired at the compound but missed the palace, hitting a nearby hillside. No damaged was caused and no-one was believed to have been hurt, they added.

A security source told the Reuters news agency that the situation "was under control and there was nothing to be worried about".

It was not immediately clear if the president was inside the palace at the time of the attack.

One of Mr Hadi's aides told the Associated Press that he had not been there, but another was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying that the president had now been "evacuated to a safe place".

The officials said the planes were flown by pilots allied to the Houthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who handed over power to Mr Hadi in 2011 after mass protests against his rule.

Sky News Arabia reported that the planes had taken off from al-Dulaimi air base in Sanaa.

The fighting at Aden's airport began when troops from the Special Security Forces, a police unit loyal to Mr Saleh, stormed the facility after claiming that they had been fired on from nearby buildings, an army official told the New York Times.

Mr Hadi's forces regained control of the airport after reinforcements arrived with tanks and armoured vehicles several hours later.

The army official said they were now moving to take control of the Special Security Forces' headquarters.

The president tried earlier this month to dismiss the head of the unit, Gen Abdul Hafez al-Saqqaf, in a bid to strengthen his hold on Aden.

Correspondents say the air raid on the compound and the fighting at the airport suggest the Houthis and Mr Saleh's supporters are taking the battle to President Hadi in Aden in order to prevent him from consolidating his new power base in the south.

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