ADEN — At least six soldiers were killed in southern Yemen on Tuesday when two suicide car bombings struck an army base. Twelve others were wounded and officials said the number of fatalities was likely to rise.
One bomber detonated his car full of explosives at the gate of the base in the city of Habilayn, in Lahj province, while the second car bomb went off only 50 metres away.
The base belongs to troops loyal to president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi who earlier this year launched an offensive against Al Qaeda militants.
The offensive, backed by a Saudi-led coalition of mostly Arab states, pushed the militants out of several cities, including Mukalla, the provincial capital of Hadramawt, but Al Qaeda fighters have since regained some ground.
Yemen has been gripped by a devastating conflict that began in 2014 when Houthi rebels seized northern and central parts of the country including the capital, Sanaa.
The war escalated in March last year when the rebels advanced south and the coalition responded by launching air strikes in support of Mr Hadi’s government.
Loyalists backed by the coalition have since recaptured the provinces of Aden, Lahj, Abyan, Shabwa and Daleh from the Iran-backed Houthis.
Meanwhile the Yemeni delegation is preparing to leave Kuwait where talks mediated by the United Nations have been taking place since April. Foreign minister Abdul-Malik Al Mekhlafi said that despite reservations, his government has approved a UN-proposed deal and given the Houthis a deadline of August 8 to add their approval.
“The ball now is in the court of the Houthis,” he said.
The Houthis, whose delegation remains in Kuwait have so far rejected the deal which forces them to hand over their weapons and withdraw from cities within 45 days of signing the agreement. They want Mr Hadi to hand over authority to a new government of national unity, in which they, the Houthis, will share power.
A member of the Houthi delegation, Hamza Al Houthi said: “The solution must be comprehensive and include all the political and humanitarian issues.”
Meanwhile, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said he still has “very strong concerns” about the protection of children in Yemen and stands by a report that saw the Saudi Arabia-led coalition being added to a UN blacklist for killing and injuring about 1,200 children last year. The coalition was taken off the list temporarily in June pending a review.
Last week, Saudi Arabia outlined in a 13-page confidential letter to Mr Ban the measures that the coalition is taking to prevent civilian deaths. It offered to share with the UN the results of 10 investigations into air strikes on hospitals, homes, a wedding party and markets and said a reparations committee had been set up to consider compensation for victims.