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41 killed in Aden bombings – Yemen foes hold direct talks after long pause

ADEN: People gather at the scene after a pair of suicide bombings in this southern Yemeni city yesterday. — AP
ADEN: People gather at the scene after a pair of suicide bombings in this southern Yemeni city yesterday. — AP

KUWAIT: Yemen’s warring parties held their first face-to-face meeting in nearly a week yesterday after the government delegation ended a boycott, the UN envoy said. “A joint meeting between the two delegations to the Yemen peace talks has started in the morning,” Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said on Twitter. The troubled negotiations which began on April 21 broke off on Tuesday when the government delegation suspended its participation accusing Iran-backed rebels who control the capital of failing to keep their word.

The government demanded a written pledge from the Houthi rebels and their allies recognizing an April 2015 UN Security Council resolution calling for their withdrawal from the capital and other territories they have overran since 2014, as well as the legitimacy of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi. Hadi had agreed to end the latest boycott after mediation by UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the UN special envoy said on Sunday.

Foreign Minister Abdulmalek Al-Mikhlafi said on Twitter Sunday that the government had agreed to give the peace talks a “last chance”. “We have fixed all the references. This is a first step on the path for a real peace that leads to implementing Resolution 2216 beginning with withdrawals, surrender of weapons and the restoration of state institutions,” he said.

Meanwhile, twin bombings claimed by the Islamic State group hit Yemeni forces in Aden yesterday, killing at least 41 people in the latest of a spate of attacks in the southern city. The attacks in Aden – which is serving as the temporary government headquarters after rebels forced authorities from the capital – follow a major military operation against jihadists in parts of southern and southeastern Yemen.

In the first attack, a suicide bomber killed 34 people queuing to enlist at a recruitment center near the Badr base in Aden’s Khormaksar district, said Brigadier General Nasser Al-Sarei, the commander of Yemen’s special security forces. A subsequent explosion inside the base killed seven soldiers, he said. Medics said that 38 people were wounded in the twin attacks. In a statement posted online, IS said one of its fighters detonated an explosives belt among “apostate soldiers” at a recruitment center, followed by the bombing at a gate of the Badr base.

A local resident in Aden described the scene of the Badr explosions as “horrible”, saying body parts had been blown dozens of metres away. “They came to complete the procedure of their recruitment and receive their first salary,” he said, speaking of the young men who had gathered outside the army center. Abandoned slippers and sandals, apparently from the victims, covered the area, television footage showed. Aden resident Ramzi Al-Fadhli said “wailing filled the air” as women identified the remains of relatives at Al-Jumhuriyah Hospital, where at least 32 bodies were taken. Aden has seen a wave of attacks in recent months claimed by Al-Qaeda or its jihadist rival IS after government forces drove Houthi rebels out of the port city in July. – Agencies

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