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Yemen's Houthis behind deadly attack on Aden airport, UN report says

The Houthis previously denied responsibility for the attack, which came as Yemeni government officials disembarked from Riyadh.
Yemeni journalist's funeral

United Nations investigators have concluded that Yemen’s Houthi rebels were likely behind a missile attack on the Aden airport in December that killed at least 25 people.

Explosions rocked Aden International Airport on Dec. 30 as representatives of the war-torn country’s newly formed unity government arrived from Saudi Arabia. More than 100 people were wounded in the attack, though all government members survived, Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalek Saeed said.

The Houthis, who have taken over most of Yemen’s north since their 2014 uprising despite military intervention led by Saudi Arabia, denied responsibility for the unusually brazen and deadly attack, despite claiming numerous other missile and drone strikes in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

Now a report by UN investigators has concluded “with very high confidence” that at least two missiles used in the attack were launched from locations under the control of Houthi forces, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Two known missiles were launched from Taiz airport, while another two suspected launches occurred at the police training center in the city of Dhamar. All of the areas were under Houthi control at the time of the attack, the UN report said.

After reviewing footage of the strike at the airport, the UN panel concluded that at least one guided ballistic missile was likely used.

The “available evidence points strongly towards the use of solid fuel, short-distance, surface-to-surface, ballistic missiles,” according to the report, which named the likely weapon used as belonging to the Badr-1 missile family.

The December attack came as newly approved members of the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi returned to Aden from exile in Riyadh, where a deal for a unity government had been announced just a week earlier.

Saudi Arabia has long sought to shore up fractures in the Hadi government as both have failed to stop Houthi advances in Yemen. The rebels have continued to launch ballistic missile and explosive drones into Saudi Arabia, calling for an end to the kingdom’s involvement in Yemen’s civil war.

The Biden administration revoked a terror designation for the Houthis imposed by the outgoing Trump administration, as the new administration seeks to end Yemen’s civil war through diplomacy as it seeks rapprochement with Iran over its nuclear program.

The US military has repeatedly said the Houthis’ weapons technology — in particular, their drones and ballistic missiles — are supplied by Iran.

The Biden administration’s envoy tasked with negotiating an end to Yemen’s war, Timothy Lenderking, had “productive” meetings this week in Saudi Arabia and Oman, the State Department said in a statement Wednesday upon his return to Washington.

Lenderking met with Yemeni, Saudi and Omani officials in coordination with the UN’s Yemen envoy, Martin Griffiths, in an effort to “bring about a ceasefire, inclusive political talks, and a durable peace agreement that addresses the needs of all Yemenis,” the statement read.

The Houthis reportedly rejected Lenderking’s previous cease-fire offer last month. Saudi Arabia has offered limited concessions to the Houthis in recent weeks, but the rebels have made public their dissatisfaction with the offer.

The Zaydi Shiite rebels said they hit Riyadh with four armed drones Thursday in the latest sign of stalemate in the negotiations to end the war.

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